“Why did they abandon the match?” “Because of you”

A strange thing happened while I was watching Tottenham play Bolton in a FA Cup tie on TV: A player collapsed and died. For 79 minutes. Then he came back to life.

Patrice Muamba, a 24 year-old professional and former England U21 player was in excellent physical condition but suddenly collapsed minutes before half-time. The referee Howard Webb stopped the game to allow EMTs to come on to the pitch. A cardiologist and

EMTs were on the scene in seconds.

Tottenham fan, Dr Andrew Deaner, came down from the stands and attended to him. Webb instructed both teams to leave the pitch for the locker rooms while the medical team attended to the fallen player.

Webb would later commend the Tottenham crowd for its exemplary behaviour, deflecting praise from his own performance to them:

Webb said: “My overriding memory is of the crowd reaction to it all when, suddenly, they all realised the seriousness of the situation.

“Firstly, they went very quiet. It was as if they all knew it was really serious. Then I could almost sense them encouraging him, and then willing someone to get a doctor.

“When the doctor arrived and started working on Fabrice, the crowd reaction was amazing, it was as if they were almost pushing with the doctor and willing him to get Fabrice’s heart going.

“Certainly, I felt for the doctor, and I think everybody did. Here he was in front of what, 35,000 people, trying to save someone’s life. I think we all felt for him doing that in that situation.

“The crowd really were pushing for him, they were chanting Fabrice’s name – I’ve never known anything like it, because the crowd reaction to that, and afterwards, was amazing.

“I just caught the back end of the collapse and didn’t know what had happened and saw (Spurs midfielder) Luka Modric looking as bemused as I was.

“Some players nearby were distraught whilst Fabrice was being worked on – Jermain Defoe knows him well.

“I decided to get everyone off then we could all gather our thoughts

“The decision to abandon the game was the only right and proper one to take.”

And that’s where this post started forming. The officials took the players off and decided to abandon the match. And no one mentioned the 40,000 paid attendees or the worldwide television rights and sponsor obligations. Instead all concerned parties agree that stopping the match was the only right thing to do.

Fabrice Muamba is a player, and one of my sayings is “A player wants to play.”Meaning a real player doesn’t want to cancel practice if it’s raining, or go to dinner with the family, or sit out due to a cold. Players always want to play. It is what they do. So when he regained consciousness hours later in his hospital bed he saw his father and his fiancee. She is the mother of their three year-old son and his first question was about his well-being.

Then he turned to his father and asked “did we lose?”(The opponents, Tottenham, are many places ahead of them in the league table and Bolton were playing away to them). His father explained that no, they didn’t lose because the game had to be abandoned with the scores at 1-1. Hearing this, Muamba then demanded to know why, and was told by father Marcel: ‘Because of you‘.

The NFL didn’t stop the game when Mike Utley was wheeled off, paralyzed. In fact I don’t think any of these five NFL games were halted due to a catastrophic injury.

In Major League baseball, Tony Conigliaro suffered a horrendous injury when hit by a pitched ball and the game went on.

When do we stop play?

College basket ball stopped when Hank Gathers had his fatal heart attack, in fact the rest of the tournament was canceled. Maybe we carry on when the injury occurs in the course of normal play, however serious. But when a healthy player is suddenly incapacitated and is on death’s door we know the show does not have to go on. In fact it can remind us that it’s only a show.

Starting back up again can be difficult. Bolton’s next match, at Aston Villa on Tuesday in the Premier League, was postponed. The team will play Blackburn on this Saturday, and then have to reschedule the Tottenham game. But players and management alike undersand what is important now. “Any of those questions are irrelevant at the minute,” said Davies. “I have been speaking to the manager and I have travelled back with the chairman. He went back down to support Fabrice and his family. It was optional to come into training today (Monday) and decisions will have to be made but my immediate thoughts are with Fabrice and his family. The club will take a stance on it in the next couple of days. But at the minute we want to just try and help Fabrice.”

After visiting Muamba in hospital, Bolton boss Owen Coyle said: “It’s great to be talented at football but it is more important to be a genuinely nice man and Fabrice is that. Our concern is Fabrice and Fabrice only and that’s what all our energy is going into – hopefully a happy outcome.”

Muamba is a refugee of war-torn Congo, formerly known as Zaire. His father was on a death list and he lived in danger there. “It stopped us going out to play football because we were scared we would get killed. One or two of my friends were hurt, one or two of them have since died.” He arrived in London at the age of 11, speaking no English.  At 16 he brashly walked into Arsenal and asked for a trial, which he passed and was signed to a contract. He his known to be devoutly religious and does not smoke or drink. According to the Daily Mail, he has ambitions to one day become an accountant and be referred to as ‘Dr Muamba’. He has more qualifications than any of his teammates in the Bolton dressing room, having earned 10 GCSEs as well as A-levels in French, maths and English.

Many professionals across the world are wearing T-shirts that sport the message “Pray for Fabrice.” Who can argue with that.

More Stuff:

In the mean time the NFL is shocked to hear that teams actually try to injure opponents.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7718136/sean-payton-new-orleans-saints-banned-one-year-bounties

More information on Patrice Muamba:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2012/03/football-players%E2%80%99-health

The incident is the latest in a tragic trend. Mr Muamba’s all-action, relentless style singled him out as one of the fittest players at the club. It was the same with Marc-Vivien Foe, who lost his life after he suffered a heart failure while playing for Cameroon in 2003. Just a few months later Miklos Feher, a Hungarian footballer playing for Benfica in Portugal, died on the pitch. In the last five years, another player in the Spanish league, Antonio Puerta, also succumbed to a heart attack while playing.

Another player who had a heart attack off the field. Dani Jarque died in his room, to be famously remembered by Iniesta when he scored the World Cup-winning goal:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Jarque

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2012/03/18/sports/soccer/ap-soc-bolton-muamba.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/conversation?id=1036898&cc=5901

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