I thought it had all ended, but then realised I’d forgotten that they’d have to play a rematch. The match reports were written about 10 days ago. If Bolton had won, it was because Fabrice Muamba’s plight had given them a hardened inner-resolve, the like of which we hadn’t seen on the field of play since Agincourt. If Bolton had lost, it would obviously be because their minds were elsewhere.
Yep, their minds were elsewhere: 3-1 Spurs.
Commentary on the Muamba collapse has seen a split between the self-congratulatory; those for whom the act of applauding rather than booing a man at death’s door is seen as cause for feelings of intense pride, and those of a more, dare I say it, objective viewpoint. I hope you won’t think less of me (doesn’t matter if you do: I don’t exist anyway) for siding with the latter. I truly tried not to jump in with the sanctimonious non-football going wankers, but alas, couldn’t help it.
Grieving has been a national sport since Diana, and everyone is still seemingly over-compensating; for fear that if they don’t someone will notice, and take them to task on it. Maybe even on the telly – the horror! This is football’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Be seen not sobbing/ not looking concerned/ playing gaily in a flowery meadow, and your loyal sprog will dob you in to the righteous moral authority that is – sick bag out – the “football family.” Presumably the same tight-knit “family” who sung all those hilarious Adebayor/ elephant ditties.
It’s an offset of the well-reported outrage phenomenon. Everyone is constantly on tenterhooks, ever-willing to be offended so as to give their whining a deeper gravitas. Consider the Labour MP Angela Eagle who moaned at Cameron’s anaemic “calm down, dear” line: she was so ‘outraged’ that she then inadvertently went on to vindicate the PM’s choice of words by embarrassingly professing her fury on television. Silly tart. Oh but I’m doing it for women across the country! Etc. etc.
As Marina Hyde rightly questioned on the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast: where does it all go from here? I.e. do we now forget Muamba totally, or do we gradually dilute the sentiment to a series of pats on the backs and warm handshakes?
To be honest I’m more concerned with the eulogies and shrines in his honour; which one has to hope are cleared up before he finally gets out of bed. Imagine seeing shirts, flowers and candles laid out for you – you’d be utterly convinced of your own death, and subsequently that you were now in some sort of Sixth Sense-esque afterlife.
You have to feel for the poor guy. If the heart-attack didn’t finish him, the mawkish interviews – no doubt already having been planned to the nth degree by some soppy saps in Isleworth and White City – should see that he never makes a full recovery. Adrian Chiles simply has to get the first interview; the last thing you’d need post-coronary would be Dan Walker’s Christian virtue coiling its way around your helpless person. Adrian would provide a stoic distance, dropping a few “glad your back, mate” lines as opposed to Walker’s “we’re sooooo happy your back in our lives.” Roy Keane would be a useful addition as a reminder of the brutality of the modern world, and could step in manfully with the Kleenex when it all gets a bit much for sensitivity’s Gareth Southgate.
What makes it all the more ridiculous is that you know full well that when a fully recovered Fabrice Muamba – touch wood – brings down your flash Spanish creative type with his all his fancy-Dan passing and tactical thinking-about-the-game twaddle, you’ll scream some ungodly obscenity – either out loud (working class) or inside your noggin (middle-class) baying for his head on a plate. You can see the message boards now:
“Muamber all-ways gos down cos of wot happened – e knows the ref will simpathise wiv him and be afrayed of gettin in the headlines for bein r@cist!!!,” BrooksyBRFC4eva will write in some dimly-lit teenage wank-chamber in a forgotten corner of Britain.
“Pray 4 Muamba.”
Now, call me a stiff with woeful lack of perspective, but would it have been wholly unreasonable to have just written the word ‘for’ in there as opposed to the text message equivalent? I’d understand if he wore the number 4 shirt, but he doesn’t. Poor old Michael Gove (he Daily Express-ed). If these footballers are the role-models we’re told to believe they are, then they could at least do their bit to contribute to the urgently required improvement in spelling amongst the nation’s failures-in-waiting.
“Thank you for your support for Fabrice,” was adorning various t-shirts on Tuesday. Bit clumsy, innit? Repetition of ‘for’ over a seven word sentence? Seriously guys, that’s just not good enough. Notice we’re now on first name terms, as this is a SERIOUS ISSUE. He’s no longer Muamba, he’s Fabrice, and solemnity abounds. I.e. Wayne has had a baby; Rooney has scored a goal. I don’t quite know what sort of human wouldn’t offer a show of support to a man who’d suffered a heart attack, and if there is one, I’m yet to meet him/ her. In addition, seeing various teams adorned in Muamba tribute tees, one couldn’t help but be reminded of just how misguided those Suarez tops were. I only wear it to bed now.
On the other hand, Rowan Williams must be delighted. This has probably been Christian church’s biggest coup since Kaka’s “I belong to Jesus” Topman t-shirt; God’s tap on the shoulder to the ipod-immersed generation. Wazza Rooney let his however many million sheep on Twitter know that Muamba was ‘in his prayers’, presumably in addition to a wage increase and Coleen not seeking a divorce.
In a move in keeping with modern Christianity, Muamba has inadvertently become an industry. The poor lad’s in danger of coming round to Fabrice Muamba Day every year for the rest of his poor life, which should ensure he’s never allowed to forget what happened, or put it behind him. Indeed it’s a small wonder altruism’s David Beckham hasn’t shown up at the poor old boy’s bedside (at time of writing) offering his arm round the shoulder + steely gaze to the baying pack of photographers in tow.
However, science is proving a worthy adversary to the cross. Those proposing that the whole affair has been “a miracle” are not to be sniffed at, but some may argue medicine had a role to play too. In this light, isn’t it now time we started lavishing praise on clubs for charging ban-bustingly high ticket prices, which price out the unskilled worker in favour of the professional?
Dr Andrew Deaner’s risqué assertiveness led to Muamba being driven further away, to a more specialist hospital; a triumph of professional cool-headedness. Lots of fans cop a lot of stick for their non-support, with many grounds subsequently derided by so called ‘better fans’ for their rejection of emotion and general on-the-day madness. With this in mind, I think I’d most like to play for Fulham. Just imagine the expertise around you pending a breakdown of some description: finance, law, medicine would be totally covered. Also, the Cottage is so quiet you could be guaranteed that if you did suffer a sudden medical ailment, you could lie there fully-assured the various do-gooders would be able to communicate in a surgery-like environment. God forbid Muamba – or rather Fabrice – had collapsed at the Britannia with all its horrible shouting and atmosphere; you’d have 30,000 up for murder. Hopefully we’ll soon get fans boasting about how many degrees their average season-ticket holder has.
Malcolm Glazer’s reported intention to seek investment in the Singaporean stock-market seems silly in this light. He should have just made an appeal for bidders over the tannoy:
“Could the owner of the Ferrari with the twaty personalised number plate please move it out of Bebe’s parking spot – yes, we know he’s crap – and email firstname.lastname@example.org with the latest news from the far east?”
Perhaps some helpful banker could just “do a Deaner” and just run onto the pitch, skilfully manipulating the simpleton in the hi-vis jacket to let him on the field through Etonian-charm and terrifying phrases like ‘leveraged-buyout’, ‘commodity pattern of trade’ and finally just “sell, sell, sell!!!” It’s surprising United haven’t struck a deal with the FT, who could relay the latest headlines on the digital advertising hoardings. Then again I suppose if some unexpected news came through regarding an oil-rig explosion in the middle-east the stadium could quite easily empty, which would completely diminish the visceral anger of Wazza ripping his top off after smashing in another against Citeh.
Since Dr. Deaner became a national hero, you have to wonder whether Roy Keane feels a bit silly over his slating of the Old Trafford faithful-till-a-better-team-comes-along for their choice of sandwich filling. With a more vociferous middle-class crowd, we might have seen a spokesperson come back at him with: “Well I bet your wages aren’t working for you nearly as hard as you they could be, you ISA-loving small-timer,” and so forth. Hopefully the praise lavished over Dr Andrew Deaner will give the professional-classes a voice inside stadia across the nation (in the Premier League at least) as Richard Scudamore finally realises the dream of “fahkin no atmosphere in there” becoming the new “oh my days bruv the place was fuckin bouncin!”