Sunday, 18 March 2012

Football is a family

This weekend QPR didn't play. Being out of the FA Cup and having fixtures moved around to suit other teams and TV this was going to be a weekend free of disappointment and the need to critique, yet again, a miserably deteriorating team.

Thames Water, who I have an ongoing complaint with had made me stay in yet again this Saturday afternoon to install a meter. However, I did feel as if God had shined down upon me a little when I saw the line up of sports available to me from about 12 noon - FA cup ties, followed by three matches of rugby - the final one overlapping the Tottenham/Bolton FA Cup game. The chap who installed the meter noticed the sport on TV and had a little chat with me about how he thought none of our new players were really premiership players - who did he support? Millwall? In any case...things were getting on as they do on a fairly lazy Saturday afternoon.

After watching Wales' great victory, I decided to choose the football game over the next rugby game as I didn't feel there was a lot to play for, for England - obviously ignoring the fact that playing for pride can mean a lot.

And 41 minutes in to the Tottenham game I had my back to the TV as I was preparing some food - there was this strange sort of silence around the ground. This wasn't the normal sound you hear when a player goes down injured. It was almost immediate, and I stopped what I was doing and saw what was probably the most sad, and shocking thing I've seen in a long time - not just at a football game - but ever. Muamba's collapse in the middle of the pitch came completely out of the blue and because we saw the distress of the players of both teams around him it was obvious to everyone that this was really and truly serious. As the camera panned round to the fans around White Hart Lane you could see people's fear and anguish in their eyes. There were fans in tears. And everyone just stood in silence, save for a few chants of Muamba's name from both sets of fans.

As a QPR and a big supporter of football, and just 'as me' I pray that Muamba makes a safe recovery and survives.

Also, I am extremely touched and feel a little vindicated about the football community. Recently there has been (even among our small group of QPR fans), some debate, blogs and tweets about being PC or not PC, banter, homophobia, racism...what's acceptable, what's not. Even people saying we don't care if people don't like us QPR fans. All of this is light-hearted on the surface. But in my opinion, points to our need to identify ourselves and an important stage in how we develop. The simple fact that fans are even blogging and talking about these things is likely a world away from how we behaved a fifty or so years ago...probably even twenty years ago...While I appreciate some of the comments my esteemed blogger thisismyengland has made, I don't think that we're really that archaic. Maybe I'm naive.

Events like what happened yesterday puts things in to perspective, as everyone has said. But I would argue, that football is important in our lives and it certainly isn't trivial. Why? Because it's a reflection of who we are. And the way fans behaved yesterday negates all the things that people say about the footballing community. People there showed extreme respect and for me reflected utterly what is wonderful about us, and wonderful about England. And this is from someone who was born abroad and has only one half British, and I choose to call this place my very beloved home.

Muamba's family chose to call England their home. I am not entirely familiar with his story but I am hearing from news reports and seeing online that this is a life that has faced challenges that most of us would never even have in our nightmares. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most dangerous places in the world, and has a sad history. How everyone is behaving right now (apart from a handful of twitter idiots), is a reflection of how far we actually have come as a society. We constantly lambaste ourselves for our behaviour but I've always believed that when it comes to critical junctures we tend to do the right thing.

It is not only Muamba's life that has seen suffering though.  Life brings us all tough challenges and when a new one comes along things don't get easier, but the hope is that we are better equipped to face them than the last time around. In my twitter family I found out about Cosmo, a six week old boy who has suffered a massive heart attack. His father is a QPR fan and other fans have rallied round to try to raise money and awareness for what he has suffered. You can donate to help on this Justgiving page, and follow his progress on twitter @gtrafford.

In this day for families called 'Mothers Day', I also thank whoever is up there for making me a part of many great families.

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