What happened to Fabrice Muamba last week on the football pitch must be averted at all costs by football authorities around the world for the betterment of the beautiful game.
Sports have been a bastion of glory for the world for as far back as time immemorial. The thrill that a sport unleashes on the senses is unimaginable, prompting sportsmen and sportswomen to be in hot pursuit of record breaking feats in a bid to achieve the impossible.
The quest for glory and the triumphant victor’s crown has created history in the making in the process of lauding and acclaiming the winners. But on occasions, the limits that sportspeople push themselves come under the glare of the world, like last week in the abandoned English FA cup quarter-final tie between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspur.
The ugly side of the keenness of rivalry and competition took its toll on the unsuspecting Fabrice Muamba, who at the tender age of 23 years old, found himself the victim of a heart attack while playing the crucial FA cup tie.
Muamba collapsed in the 41st minute of the game when it was tied at 1-1 last Saturday and medics spent six minutes trying to revive him before rushing him to hospital. The scene at the White Hart Lane stadium was shell-shocked unbelief.
As the reality of what happened sunk in, it poured out in tears and grief as fans of both sides came to grips with Muamba’s tragic encounter along with millions watching the televised match live to audiences around the world.
This is football and come weekends usually fans all over the world feast on the glory of goals and sheer entertainment pleasure as footballers strive and try to take the game to a new level of excellence.
It is, in the words of football legend Pele, “the beautiful game,” and for those of us ardent supporters and fans it is “the” sport to watch and follow. But Muamba’s collapse on the field has taken that perfect shine that football emanates, the beauty of the game now tainted by ugliness.
While across the world where professional football is played there have been instances of footballers meeting such a fate as Muamba, it is a rarity rather than the norm. This is a very rare case scenario but owing to the mass of publicity it creates in this game there is a wave of euphoric emotions.
Lessons must not go unheeded
It is therefore high time the governing authorities of football, FIFA and its network of football administrators around the world begin the earnest task to avoid disasters like this from taking place.
They have to put in place thorough and rigorous physical and medical fitness programmes for every footballer to eliminate any possibility such as that of Muamba’s collapse from ever taking place. It’s a tall order for any organization. But FIFA has the means and capacity to implement such measures.
FIFA as a responsible governing authority of the sport has the infrastructure and the financial capacity to safeguard the health and well being of footballers all over the world.
This beautiful game is supported strongly by billions of people and is funded by massive amounts of money.
If Muamba’s cardiac arrest was not spotted early on, the blame has to fall on the shoulders of his club and the English FA for the lax approach they take to the fitness of players and the possibility of players having an impending threat to their lives.
As envisaged, everyone will get over their shock and grief. Even Muamba, who is hospitalized at the London Chest Hospital, is reportedly in a critical but stable condition. At the time of going to press, his prognosis seems to be getting brighter.
But even in the midst of the ugliness of Muamba’s tragedy, there was a groundswell of support and prayers and get well wishes for the Bolton star from people all over the world underlining the powerful statement that football brings humanity together and unifies them.
It is this wellspring of support for the game across the globe that places the game apart from all others, a simple game that inspires so much of awesome scrutiny by people and that grows in interest all the time.
But the lessons of Muamba’s fate last Saturday must not go unheeded and the English FA and FIFA will be under the spotlight by followers of the game to see what measures they spell out and put in place to avert any such misfortune such as Muamba’s from taking place for the game to be played in perfect beauty.
Christopher Fernandez has been teaching and writing throughout Asia since 1984.