Time to hear Kevin Davies’ call for football to really unite

Football is not a matter of life and death, it is much more important than that… Bill Shankly’s often requoted and paraphrased soundbite works just fine as a flippant remark to illustrate the passions behind the world’s most popular sport – but we also know it’s not true.

Football is not a matter of life and death, it is much more important than that… Bill Shankly’s often requoted and paraphrased soundbite works just fine as a flippant remark to illustrate the passions behind the world’s most popular sport – but we also know it’s not true.

And while we wouldn’t want to be reminded of it either, sometimes that can’t be avoided.

What happened to Fabrice Muamba at White Hart Lane on Saturday was a terrible, sickening moment that may yet have a miraculously uplifting ending – I’m sure all our fingers are tightly crossed for that.

Yes these are early days, but it is something special that the news from London Chest Hospital has been so positive since Monday.


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City and Newcastle fans at St James’ Park, like grounds across the country – indeed the world – have since shown their support for the Bolton midfielder’s fight for survival.

And I may have been alone, but it reminded me of the last time football in this country had tough news to digest. Gary Speed’s death in November saw the game unite across the board. Muamba’s ordeal will no doubt continue to do the same over the coming weeks.

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But I was still struck by an interview on Monday with Kevin Davies, Muamba’s Bolton captain who accompanied his team-mate in the ambulance with Owen Coyle.

Davies’ sentiments were raw, from a time when we were without the positive news we’ve since had on Muamba’s condition. But the words from Davies, who was also a long-time team-mate of Speed at the Reebok, are worth taking in.

“It was the first time in my nearly 19 years in the game that I have seen a stadium unite,” Davies told the Manchester Evening News of what happened at Tottenham on Saturday evening. “It was touching but I was laying in bed thinking how sad it was as well.

“It seems the only way you are going to get a ripple of applause away from your own ground is to get carried off on a stretcher. That is a sad state of affairs.

“Fans are quick to get off their seats if there is a mistimed tackle. Maybe people have to ask why Fabrice Muamba runs 80 yards to put a last ditch tackle in. It is not because he has anything against your team. It is because he is working hard for his own.

“If there is anything positive to come out of this, when you see supporters from all over, it would be nice if the fans could unite.”

I saw Mark Kinsella score a peach of a goal for Charlton at Carrow Road years ago. I couldn’t help but stand and applaud – and I wasn’t the only one in the Barclay to do so.

Special goals usually garner such a reaction, as do tragedies. What happened to Fabrice Muamba has happened before elsewhere – with worse outcomes.

But while football produces a banter and atmosphere often unrivalled, surely it’s not mutually exclusive to having audible respect for all 22 players on the pitch?

Maybe the events of Saturday can breed that new respect from fans for players, and between players as well. In a similar way that drivers and riders deserve admiration at any circuit around the world.

And those filed into Twickenham and Welford Road understanding what is being put on the line at each ruck and maul.

When we can all hopefully enjoy Fabrice Muamba’s full recovery, that is where I would like all the current positive energy to be directed next.

After all, however passionate we are, it really is only a game.

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