By Aidan Delaney
Without a shadow of a doubt, the terrorist attacks of last night will live long in the memories of people all over the world. 120 have so far lost their lives in one of the deadliest attacks in recent times. Paris is a place that loves it’s football and harrowing videos of explosions being heard during the game between France and Germany served as a reminder that no one is exempt from tragedy.
Throughout the history of the beautiful game, there has always been incidents and events which have meant that some fans went to watch their favourite teams and never came home. But one constant that can be found following each tragedy is the response of the footballing world. Footballing associations, players, officials and more have always proven themselves to be more than willing to go up and above the call of duty to help and assist those that are in trouble. This post is to serve as a reminder that while football may be “only a game” to some people, there have been moments when football has been so much more.
1 – French Fans Following The Paris Attacks
Following the game last night, images flew around the net of the pitch in the Stade de France full of people who were too afraid to leave the stadium. But one of the most enlightening images from a night of pure darkness was the video showing the French fans singing their national anthem, La Marseillaise as they left the stadium. It was a show of solidarity and spirit that the country needed to carry on in such dreadful circumstances. The French fans were making a statement, they were no longer afraid of being attacked knowing that they have the whole nation behind them.
2 – Liverpool Players Meet Hillsborough Victims Families
The 15th of April 1989 will forever be known as one of the darkest days in English football. 96 Liverpool fans were killed following crush due to officials allowing one of the stands in the Hillsborough stadium to become over-capacitated. A massive police cover-up and a savage media campaign against the victims families left them without support and their stories unheard. However, there was one organisation that put the families first, that was Liverpool F.C.
Not only did the club help set up and fund a Disaster Appeal fund for the families, they also donated £100,000 plus their earnings from the game itself to make sure the families would remain financially secure. Players also played their part with many senior players such as Kenny Dalgliesh and John Barnes personally attending the funerals of the victims and providing continuing support to the Justice For The 96 campaign as they looked to clear the names of the dead.
The Hillsborough disaster was so highly publicised that many clubs who used standing terraces were forced to put in seats to try provide better safety measures for fans. Thankfully England hasn’t seen the likes of a death toll like this at a match since.
3 – Fabrice Muamba Suffers A Heart Attack Mid-Game
It was a completely out of the blue moment. Something that was thought to be unimaginable for a healthy and fit player in his mid 20s. But on St Patrick’s Day 2012, Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba suddenly fell onto the pitch without any tackle or altercation with another player. As team doctors ran onto the field, it became apparent quite quickly that Muamba had suffered cardiac arrest and that his heart had stopped for 78 minutes before being revived in a nearby hospital in London. When Muamba came to, he was unable to move any limbs and looked to remain in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
It was thanks to the quick thinking of the team doctors and a fan who was a cardiology consultant that Muamba was able to have his life saved. Within a month of the incident, Muamba walked out of hospital unassisted and continues to lead a normal life today. He has retired from football but still managed to play 15 minutes in a testimonial match for Ian Goodison earlier this year.
The fact that tragedy was avoided here also served as a major warning to Premier League clubs who increased spending on medical instruments to ensure any health problems can be dealt with swiftly and easily. It also provides a reminder to all those watching that even though it may seem that the players are at the top level of fitness, that tragedy can strike anyone.
4 – Stiliyan Petrov Beats Leukaemia
Bulgaria’s Stiliyan Petrov seemingly had the world at his feet in 2012. He was a well respected footballer in England having plied his trade with a very successful Celtic side before moving on to Aston Villa where he became club captain. However, Petrov’s life and career suffered a major blow when he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March 2012.
Petrov took a break from the game to try beat the disease and was ultimately successful after announcing in August 2012 that he was in remission. He frequently mentions that the support of the Aston Villa fans and Premier League fans in general that inspired him to come through the process and thanks the club for their assistance. He was particularly overwhelmed when the Aston Villa fans would applaud during the 19th minute in remembrance of him (Petrov having worn the number 19 while at the club)
While he did make his retirement permanent, he returned to playing non league football and has taken up a coaching role at Aston Villa.
5 – Jay Beatty Lives Out His Dream
So many people are born with a disability in this world that we sometimes don’t realise what that ultimately means. People like 11-year-old Jay Beatty would never be able to have the same opportunities as an able bodied person. Jay Beatty was born with Down’s Syndrome and as such, it would be extremely unlikely that he would ever achieve his goal of scoring for his favourite club Celtic.
However, the club decided to go out of their way to help this young man’s dreams come true. He was allowed to take a penalty at half time during a Celtic game which he scored. The club recorded the goal which then went viral. The video of Beatty cooly dispatching his penalty and celebrating went viral and even went on to win the Scottish Goal of The Month competition making him the youngest player to do so.
While it may have seemed like a minor event for the club to be a part of, it was a huge part of that young man’s life and gives us all hope that we too can one day achieve our goals.