As the dawn of a new season looms large, many of us are following transfer rumors, thinking about bets, and/or looking at our team’s prospects for the final table come May of next year. I know I am. But, before you put your team colors on or you order your first pint this weekend, we all need to take a step back from the banter and the rivalries and remember what this is. This past season had its highs and lows for everyone – mostly lows for me being an LFC supporter. But, it also had a few reminders of what we are all watching.
It hit home for me on March 17th, 2012. I was sitting at home watching the first half of an FA Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers when there was a commotion away from the ball and the camera. Fabrice Muamba, a 23 year old Bolton midfielder, suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the pitch. After being surrounded by what I could only hope was medical personnel, the camera moved from what was happening and I could only hear what the commentators were saying. Eventually Fabrice was rushed to the hospital and the match was abandoned, and we waited.
Fabrice Muamba’s heart stopped for 78 minutes in total. They were not able to get his heart to work by itself until the ambulance reached the cardiac hospital 7 miles away. But, after a time, it started to pump without assistance and his life was saved.
Thinking about it now brings to mind images of Gary Cahill, Fabrice’s former teammate, revealing a “Pray 4 Muamba” t-shirt under his Chelsea kit when he scored a goal, days after the incident. And the waves of messages on all the social media outlets from people all over the world. No matter what team, or what sport, everyone was united in sending this young lad their support.
Fabrice Muamba is progressing in his recovery. As recently as last week it was reported that he had played a little football but, sadly, he has been forced to retire from competitive football due to the effects of the ordeal. And, although he cannot play again and there is a long road ahead for him to a full recovery, he was the lucky one.
Unfortunately, Piermario Morosini was not so lucky. The 25 year old Italian midfielder was playing a match for Italian Serie B club Livorno (on loan from Udinese) against Pescara on April 14th, 2012. Thirty-one minutes into the match, he too collapsed on the pitch with a cardiac arrest. After a teammate realized what was happening, play was stopped and medics ran onto the field. Eventually, he was rushed to a hospital. They did all they could for him but Piermario was declared dead by doctors a little over an hour and a half later.
Again, the support came from all over. Players from leagues in England, Spain, Germany, and the US, among many others, sent their condolences to his teammates, friends, and family. Piermario is survived solely by his older sister who is severely disabled. Udinese has promised to support her for the rest of her life, with anything she may need. Livorno has since retired the number 25, the number Piermario was wearing.
Away from tragedies on the pitch, there is the case of Eric Abidal, the 31 year old Barcelona defender. It was reported in 2011 that he would have surgery to remove a tumor in his liver. The results of which did not completely fix the problem. Earlier this year it was announced that Eric would have to undergo a liver transplant. Currently he is recovering from said surgery, and was told he would be able to play football in the future.
When the original news broke of the tumor the internet was flooded with dedications for Eric. Even Real Madrid (Barcelona’s fiercest rival) and Olympique Lyonnais wore “Ánimo Abidal” (Get Well Abidal) t-shirts during their warm-up for their Champions League match and the same message was shown on the big screen at the stadium in Madrid.
There is also the case of Stiliyan Petrov, one of my favorite players. The 33 year old Bulgarian Aston Villa captain was diagnosed with acute leukemia following some tests for headaches on March 30th of this year. He immediately stepped away from club and international football to work on his recovery.
Stiliyan came to Aston Villa’s home match against Chelsea, as a fan, the day following his diagnosis announcement. He was greeted with a tribute as he and his family took their seats, and then a standing ovation, by both sets of fans, on the 19 minute mark of the match in honor of his Aston Villa kit number. And take it from me, if you haven’t seen this, it’s worth watching. Earlier this month it was reported that Stiliyan’s cancer was in remission.
It’s these stories that unite us in a way a sports team never will. They unite us as people and show us that under the uniforms of the teams we love are human beings like you or me. Each week we turn out in droves to support our teams, our favorite players. They are our heroes and sometimes our villains. They are veterans and reserves. They are the current world beaters or the future of the game. But above all, they are men. And beautiful or not, this is just a game.
It’s just football.
Guest post by: Kevin Hegarty
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