My God this season has seen football take a battering. Tevez and his touchline tizz; JT and co undermining the manager, plus his own ongoing court battle which has seen his legal team preparing request to deny the court lip-readers; Luis Suarez, his hands unwrung and unshaken and his club's absurd support; the peerless ruination of clubs by the blind staggering inebriates in charge of Portsmouth and Rangers (and Darlington, come to that).
"Hands up who likes Luis?"
We’re about to enter a new phase of churlish shit-stirring as the Mancs lock horns over the Premier League run-in. Mancini was furious after his team’s visit to Stoke on Saturday, as if he was surprised that Pulis’s pit-bulls crashed into his delicate vases like chimps armed with claw-hammers. It is what they do.
I don’t see Citeh winning it. I really don’t. It’s called bottle and there’s a lot of muddled heads running around in sky blue right now, not least upfront. If Balotelli’s not plodding around like a bewildered foal you’ve got Dzeko doing an impression of Dimitar Berbatov, but with less finesse and half the work-rate.
Ferguson meanwhile ploughs his team onward. The squad that couldn’t beat Basle or Bilbao should have more than enough to win the title in this substandard year.
But... Well sometimes all this crap gets turned on its head. Of course it takes something truly horrendous to do it. On this occasion it was the apparent death and miraculous resurrection of one Fabrice Muamba.
I haven’t prayed for the lad, cos I don’t know who to address the remarks to. Often when God gets involved in this sort of thing He gets the credit for the upsides but never the condemnation for the cardiac arrest in the first place.
All I’ve done is offered up my warmest hopes to the man and his family. But, whatever the cause of Muamba’s remarkable survival, be it the brilliance of medical practitioners at White Hart Lane and the London Chest Hospital, or the divine intervention of the beardy mysterious mover upstairs, the knock-on effect has been brilliant.
Football fans have united – poor choice of word as it’d be nice to do without United – have ‘come together’. Numpties who commonly crowd the terraces and think supporting a football club is a simple act of badmouthing the opposition have sung, chanted, daubed on sheets, the name of a fellow human being who nearly died playing the game we all love.
Footballers and managers, in particular at Bolton Wanderers, have proved themselves to be genuine, eloquent human beings.
Owen Coyle has been a model of dignity and responsibility. This has not been an easy season for him. Maybe Muamba’s near-fatality has put the trauma of a relegation dog-fight into the perspective it deserves.
Kevin Davies, a man whose elbows would be handed in if Greater Manchester Police declared an amnesty for dangerous weapons in the Bolton area, has been immense. This is a club captain who has spent much of the season warming a bench. He’s not refused to get his tracky bottoms off when called upon. Davies wondered aloud why it takes something like this to bring people together. I agree.
Except there’s a little more to it than that. It’s more a case that those fans, the huge majority, who simply go along to suffer or celebrate are the ones whose true opinion has come to the fore.
This vast majority is the teeth-clenching cringers bowing their heads as some half-brained bollock hollers some obscenity at a member of a different ethnic group. It’s the happy band of travellers that find no amusement in references to Heysel, Munich or Hillsborough; that doesn’t feel the need to question the officials’ parentage, even if they are doing a shit job at the time; that can shrug helplessly if someone waltzes past their wooden back four and fires it in from twenty-five yards.
Of course some’ll say it’s only a bit of terrace banter. Well not if, for example, you’re at Craven Cottage happily chanting that Mohammed Al Fayed’s son is dead. Or you’re bawling out the usual grim witless stuff cos Tottenham Hotspur are paying you a visit.
There’s a folly in believing that them that shout loudest are the true representatives of a particular group. Those that hollered the name of Fabrice Muamba over the past nine days or so are the heart and soul of football:
those that weep every other week; that married their second love, cos football never says 'yes' when asked.
Personally, I’m fed up with all the seething malice that sticks to footy like so much clag to the side of a men-only household’s pan. It’s pointless. I think there is a lot in football to feel frustrated about. Luis Suarez encapsulates it perfectly. Half the time he is a sinuous swivel-hipped genius. Half the time he’s a racist cheat. As for John Terry... well there’s only so often you can read the word ‘allegedly’ before the whole paragraph loses its meaning.
At the Reebok, football didn’t seem to matter much. Except that young Fabrice apparently saw his team-mates winning a football match on Match of the Day and I’m sure that helped him immeasurably. And that it was a match entirely blessed by Muamba’s family, who know, despite their son and partner’s circumstance, the importance of football.
So, off we pop to watch the next instalment of ours and our team’s life. Momentarily, but hopefully for longer, it’ll be with a greater sense of what unites football fans than what divides us. It’s getting too Biblical to say that a near-death and resurrection did that. Despite the dives, dodgy deals and downright dirt, football is bloody brilliant. As are most of the people who play it and watch it.
Get well soon, Fabrice.