It was the biggest story in sport a few weeks back. Fabrice Muamba, Premier League footballer for Bolton Wanderers, collapsed on the White Hart Lane pitch during his side’s FA Cup Quarter Final tie against Tottenham Hotspur, affecting a total call-off of the cup game.
The whole stadium fell into silence after Muamba fell, and medics and doctors sped onto the grass to try to save the player from any major potential problem that seemed almost inevitable. The player survived a cardiac attack eventually, and is now still recovering from the health complaint, so all seems to have ended up positively.
The really amazing thing for a lot of people is how the different parts of football banded together to support a player through a health problem that can affect anyone. The hashtag #pray4Muamba trended on twitter as thousands offered their sentiments, the whole country saw the story turned into a national news headline, and across the world many who are in football, or are just fans, prayed that Muamba’s condition would improve.
There has been some controversy surrounding the issue though. Red Issue, fanzine for Manchester United, has run the headline ‘Grief Junkies Run Riot’, above a picture mocking sentimental fans, on the front cover of their edition for United’s Premier League match against Fulham in March.
Do they have a point? Are the well-wishers ‘Grief Junkies’?
Even people that don’t follow football tweeted messages of condolence and support to a sportsman that they may previously not have even heard of.
A lot of people could have been getting worked up about something that should surely not even matter to them.
Maybe the fanzine has a decent point.
A spokesman for Red Issue told the Manchester Evening News that they were jabbing at the ‘self-satisfaction’ of the Twitter users that tweeted their prayers, and ‘at the circus’ surrounding the Muamba fall. The spokesman said that ‘in no way’ was his fanzine’s page aimed at the player himself, but at the ‘fake sentiments’ of the people that got involved with the player and his condition.
Be that as it may, the front page stirred up controversy, challenging the honesty of the prayers that were being said.
The counter-argument is, of course, that people genuinely did (and do) care about the player and what he went through; that everyone worried and his health, and that they really wished him well. Compassion. That’s what dishonesty and ostentatious prayer are up against. Good human compassion.
Apart from the Red Issue, however, there has been a column by Daily Mail sportswriter Richard Littlejohn that despairs at the ‘emotional incontinence’ that it says was sweeping Britain at the time of Muamba’s collapse.
The cynics are not just fame-seeking fans, perhaps, but actual professional journalists who have challenged the sincerity of the sentiments. Like the Red Issue, Littlejohn voices his own support for Muamba, but still questions others’ emotional responses.
Are the doubters right? Maybe they are, to some extent. But does it really matter?
Prayers were said. Sentiments were shown. And, most importantly of all, the player is recovering. Surely that, if anything, is all that matters – not something that is impossible to measure.
What do you think?
Were the prayers and wishes genuine, on the whole, or just empty words from people jumping on the bandwagon?