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The Sebastian Brown column: Testing times

The shocking incident involving Fabrice Muamba has saddened and united the football world. Rival players and teams have all come out and offered support and condolences to Muamba and family.

It appears Fabrice is a hugely likeable man and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing him a speedy recovery. The focus of this article however looks at the incredible reaction to the incident from rival supporters.

Obviously there are the occasional few narrow minded people who truly believe in the infamous Bill Shankly quote: “Football isn’t a matter of life and death... it’s much more important than that” and have been extremely disrespectful to Muamba and his situation.

Undoubtedly Shankly’s passion is to be greatly admired though the interpretation of the statement is risky. In its simplest form it reads as football is the most important thing in life, a certain untruth for the sane individual.

Of course football has a huge importance to many people and I believe this is what Shankly is alluring to. For example, a father and son go to a football match every Saturday, the importance becomes less about the football but more on the paternal bonding.

Football unites

Likewise when football unites in the face of something such as racism or in this case in support of Fabrice Muamba it certainly becomes much more important than ‘just a game’.

The overwhelming uniting of rival fans for such a cause is heartening and warming, especially considering the bad reputation football fans, particularly in England, have garnered as foul mouthed, aggressive hooligans. I know Adam Doyle wrote a Total Football column on supporters and in some cases he is correct.

I touched on the vile personal insults hurled at players by some fans simply because they are in a different coloured kit in my last article. Indeed I, like every other player, have experienced some form of abuse at some point. Though I usually manage to laugh off the customary “you fat b*****d”!

I think the key to understanding is the realisation that players are first and foremost people. Privileged people who represent the thousands who cheer them on, but primarily people.

They have feelings, they experience situations you experience, face worries you face and still throw themselves into the lion’s den. In a roundabout way this Gatorade commercial captures the essence of player as person perfectly

Sacrifice

Now I know that some players are hugely rewarded for this and it is a sacrifice you make for entering the business but that doesn’t make it right.

Premier League players face the constant struggle of any life crises or misdemeanours being slapped across the tabloids, however this does not mean lower league players are immune from experiencing the extreme emotions that comes with say the decline of a personal relationship.

These events cause emotion like any other person would feel, intense and meaningful emotion. This can be a dangerous mixture with participating in football matches, particularly with such important consequences of every match.

How many parks footballers have ever kicked somebody or started some ‘aggro’ because they were in a bad mood or hungover? I know I’ve seen a few!

Though a similar situation in a Football League match (not the hungover part of course!) could endanger fellow professionals, the player themselves or even spectators, in the case of Eric Cantona.

Negative outcome

This would result in a red card and potentially a negative outcome for the team and thus the management, players and supporters would understandably blame the player and thus the destructive cycle continues.

Players must be mentally strong even in these testing times and focus as best they can on their performance and that of the team. The first rule is always “ignore the crowd”, though in intimate stadiums and for players without sufficient psychological training or ability this is easier said than done.

Plus it’s never easy when something could be happening to a family member and you can’t do a thing to help. The advent of social mediums such as Twitter and Facebook also pose a dangerous platform to express feelings and emotions in testing times.

On a personal level I try to ignore as best I can but playing at an tightly packed Kingsmeadow every other week means you pick up some gems. I think the funniest, unwittingly I think, comment I’ve had is “what the f**k do you do all day?!” when I skewed a kick out of play!

Now I don’t expect an article to change the whole of the football world and it certainly won’t but just think next time you’re about to unleash a volley of personal abuse on an opposition player: “I wonder what he’s going through.” and then reassess your decision.

What topics would you like to see written about?

Contact me on Twitter (@sebbrown1) or by email to sebbrowncolumn@hotmail.co.uk

By Sebastian Brown, AFC Wimbledon keeper 


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