This past weekend the football world was tragically reminded of how fragile life can be. When Fabrice Muamba collapsed onto the ground at White Hart Lane, the crowd was stunned as medical crews rushed to assist him. Crew worked for nearly two hours before Muamba’s heart was able to beat on its own again. After being sedated for over 24 hours, Muamba has regained his ability to speak, asking to see his son. He spent last night in the intensive care unit of London Chest Hospital which was described as “comfortable”.
Sometimes it takes an event like this to jolt football fans out of our collective frenzy and focus on the beautiful game to more important matters. When we watch our favorite players take the pitch each week, most of us, players included, assume an air of invulnerability. Injuries can be incurred through the run of play, but life threatening injuries are a rarity that most football fans never see. This is why the image of Muamba collapsing face first onto the pitch at White Hart Lane will be one that is forever ingrained in our memories.
While trainers and the ambulance crew administered treatment to Fabrice Muamba, White Hart Lane fell silent, and players from both teams gathered to console each other. Rafael Van der Vaart fell to his knees in prayer, and thousands around the world joined him. From all over the world, the support and well wishes for Fabrice Muamba have poured in. On Sunday, his former teammate Gary Cahill celebrated his goal by unveiling an undershirt that read “Pray 4 Muamba”. Players in La Liga, Serie A, MLS, and other leagues around the world showed their support for Fabrice Muamba.
Every weekend, millions gather in the cathedrals of football to pay homage to our heroes that have become more than just men playing a game. To some, they represent the hope of an entire nation, to others they represent the joy of youth and vigor, and yet others can view the same man as the enemy that stands in the way of victory, the oppressor seeking to crush his opposition. This juxtaposition is what makes the game so special. This artificial meaning keeps fans involved in the game, crafting the ongoing narratives that make up our passion.
At its heart, football is a celebration of life. They both share the same roller coaster of emotions, the celebration of victory, the anguish of defeat, the nagging uneasiness that encompasses the area in between. With these emotions hanging in the balance and millions of pounds at stake it becomes easy to forget that underneath each kit is a man. Each of these men wants what we all want, to improve oneself, to attain glory, to recapture glory lost, and to be remembered by those who have witnessed these great deeds. These ongoing struggles are visible to us on a daily basis at center stage, while ours get lost in the shuffle of life among the crowd.
By collapsing, Fabrice Muamba reminded us all of our mortality and how in an instant, all that we hold dear can feel irrelevant in the face of true adversity. However, thanks to the quick actions of emergency responders and doctors, Fabrice is still with us and I look forward to seeing him hopefully set foot on the pitch once again.