Since Fabrice Muamba collapsed two weekends ago, there has been an outpouring of support, interpreted in some quarters as the ‘football community’ coming together. Football’s solidarity amid sadness has, we are told, reminded us all of our ‘shared humanity’. This is hand-holding, self-serving nonsense – football forfeited that kind of influence, that lofty providence, many moons ago.
This is not to diminish sympathy for Muamba’s family or goodwill toward the player during his recovery. No doubt, the individual players who have tweeted or worn a T-shirt wishing him well are genuine. But attempts to stitch it all together, to get all gooey while extrapolating it into a deeply moving example of football’s mass-market, sponsor-friendly worthiness, seem opportunistic – a smash and grab for warm and fuzzy PR.
How many times have we been exhorted to “pray for Muamba”? Or to “thank God” for his survival? Should we sacrifice a goat while we’re at it? These redundant voodoo fantasies merely licence football to peddle empty gestures, its stock in trade, while congratulating itself and insisting its moral compass is in perfect working order. Instead of thanking God, wouldn’t it make more sense to celebrate the expertise of the professionals who saved Muamba’s life?
Here’s an idea: if football is all about coming together, solidarity and shared humanity, maybe it should pass the hat around and kick in a few million bucks to fund research and development for the treatment of heart disease, validating those who saved Muamba’s life and hopefully helping them save thousands more.
Tweeting and T-shirts are all well and good – and prayer is, conveniently, free – but if the football community wants credibility as a caring, sharing brotherhood of man – rather than a bunch of self-interested actors fleetingly and expediently aligned for mutual profit – they should open their wallets. Instead of outdoing each other gushing about Muamba, they should find the moral imagination to leverage his misfortune for the greater good.