I’m sure I’ll get some criticism for writing this; someone is bound to get the wrong end of the stick, either deliberately or accidentally. But what the hell, I’ve seen plenty of other people’s opinions on the situation Fabrice Muamba finds himself in, so I’ll go ahead anyway.
Firstly I have nothing but sympathy for Muamba himself and his family and friends. For anyone to suffer a heart attack is horrible, and a real human tragedy. I sincerely hope he will pull through and can only applaud the way everyone present at White Hart Lane acted following the incident, from the fans to the players, managers and medical teams. It’s a simple fact that everyone will fall ill sometime and everyone will die, but I hope this is not Muamba’s time.
I’ve never met Fabrice Muamba, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever seen him play live, but by all accounts he is a very decent and popular young man as well as a decent footballer. No one seems to have a bad word to say about him, apart from some idiot Welsh racist last night, who then claimed his phone had been hacked. To be honest, it doesn’t matter too much who sent the tweets I saw, the fact that there is someone stupid enough to send them is shameful and appalling. But I digress – that one moron apart, there have been nothing but good wishes for Muamba, which in many ways is great to see.
The question I ask myself, at the risk of appearing churlish and unfeeling, is why there has been quite so much attention on the player. I’m not asking myself this because I have anything against Muamba, it is just a curiosity with which tragic incidents, or indeed incidents of any kind, capture the public imagination. Obviously there are many factors in this, not least that Muamba was to all appearances a very fit and athletic young man who was on the face of it statistically unlikely to suffer a heart attack. Second, the incident occurred in a very public place in front of a large crowd, which is unusual. Third, a footballer at a Premier League club is someone with whom many people identify on a personal level, whether they have met him or not.
I can see why other footballers, whether they know Fabrice personally or not, would feel affected; he is after all one of their own. And footballers and their opinions are unavoidable these days, whether on Twitter, in newspapers or as pundits, not to mention after-match interviews when they’ve been doing their day job. So other footballers took to Twitter straight away and have not really let up.
Other tweeters have also joined in, and while I’m sure many are totally genuine in their prayers and wishes for a speedy recovery, there were clearly a few who were just trying to get publicity for themselves. For myself, I decided to largely give Twitter a miss last night as I don’t know the man personally and did not feel I would be adding anything that would be of benefit. Neither I nor Twitter in general were in the mood for frivolity, so it seemed best to keep quiet. I know a few others agreed with me but clearly not all.
I don’t know what Fabrice Muamba would think of the amount of attention he is receiving. My gut feeling is that he is modest enough to think he doesn’t deserve it, as there are greater tragedies occurring elsewhere. Again, this is not to denigrate the real tragedy (and I use the word with its proper meaning) of a young man suffering a heart attack that could still prove fatal. But in Syria children are being blown up, losing limbs, being maimed and killed by a repressive regime every day, and the reaction is not as big. Soldiers and civilians die from guns and bombs in Afghanistan all too regularly. I have no doubt that in countries such as North Korea and Iran, innocent people are routinely tortured and killed, but largely out of our sight and our consciousness. Some friends of mine recently lost their youngest daughter to a degenerative disease that slowly but surely destroyed and then took her life. She was five. No one on Twitter or any TV programme knows about that. A group of 33 Chilean miners were trapped but survived; hundreds of miners in China are killed in accidents that get less than one hundredth of the publicity.
I would be surprised if Muamba was even the youngest person in the UK to suffer a heart attack on the day he did. Others may have died unnoticed. It’s statistically almost implausible that no one younger died in a traffic accident on the same day, or died of any one of a dozen illnesses. Muamba was fortunate to be in a location with first class medical facilities and a top chest hospital nearby, in one of the world’s most advanced cities. Coincidentally, former Welsh rugby captain Mervyn Davies, whose career ended in similar circumstances, died just a couple of days ago. Davies suffered a brain haemorrhage while playing a Welsh Cup semi-final, and though it ended his career he survived due to prompt medical attention and the proximity of Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales. If Muamba had been at home, or even on the training pitch, it may have been a different story for him too.
I hope Fabrice Muamba pulls through. I hope he makes a full and swift recovery. I also hope everyone who has expressed their sympathy and sent him their prayers and good wishes does the same for others who are not so much in the limelight.