Early Doors: A religious experience

A religious experience


The unspoken assumption, as Fabrice Muamba was carried from the pitch, was that he would not make it.

We waited for news from the London Chest Hospital, and while we maintained some pretence of hope, secretly we all knew the devastating news that would inevitably follow.

But the inevitable never happened. Muamba was in a stable condition, though still critical.

Yesterday, we discovered he was breathing unassisted, moving his limbs and even speaking a few words to friends and family members.

As unforeseen outcomes go, this was surely one of the most joyous and life-affirming football has ever seen.

Of course, this does not mean Muamba is out of the woods yet.

Despite the positive developments, he remained in intensive care last night and we do not yet know what damage has been done to Muamba's brain and organs.

What we do know, however, is that he is alive. And few at half past six on Saturday expected to be able to say that.

Yesterday, Early Doors talked about how the drama has united football and allowed us, for once, to shed our tribal facade.

Another notable aspect is the overtly religious nature the outpouring of support has taken.

The hashtag #Pray4Muamba was all over Twitter even before his family requested that we do just that.

Early Doors, of course, has no problem or hesitation in wishing Muamba a full recovery, while keeping him very much at the forefront of its thoughts.

But pray?

ED, to quote Alastair Campell of the previous Labour government, does not do God.

That's not to say it is an atheist. Frankly, it has trouble deciding what colour socks to wear each morning, so making a firm decision on the existence of a higher being is well out of its range.

As unappealing as blind faith might be, blind atheism is worse, since it carries itself with a smug sense of superiority.

In the absence of convincing evidence either way, ED thinks it would be rather arrogant to state with cast-iron certainty whether God exists. There are some things we just do not know, and the meaning of life feels like one of them.

And if he or she is real, surely we know by now that no merciful God decides whether individuals live or die.

Too many good, innocent people have lost their lives, too much injustice has taken place to imagine that a deity simply chooses the outcome of terrible situations like this.

If Muamba pulls through, that does not mean our prayers have been answered. God would be no more to credit than he would have been to blame if things had gone the other way.

In another, less important, context, it is like the sportsman who thanks God for a victory. Should he then blame him for a defeat?

(NFL wide receiver Steve Johnson actually did just that after dropping a game-winning catch for the Buffalo Bills in 2010. God might have been forgiven for thinking, having got Johnson open in the end zone, the player might meet him halfway and catch a dolly of a pass.)

But if God does not control individual outcomes, what we can say with all certainty, though, is that something - either a spiritual force or pure chance - has created an incredible world in which a man's heart can stop beating of its own accord for two hours, and yet we are able to keep him alive.

Plenty has been said in praise of the medical staffs of both Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur, of the London Chest Hospital and of cardiologist Dr Andrew Deaner who ran from the crowd to assist the efforts to save Muamba, yet it will never be enough.

Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who bore testimony to his fear as the drama unfolded, described the moment with apparent incongruity as "magic".

Yet he was absolutely right.

We spend much of the time hearing and talking about the destructive, negative side of humanity, whether in the form of callous criminals, murderous dictators, greedy businessmen or moronic Twitter trolls.

It is easy to lose sight of the incredible power for good that humans possess. Not just in the overwhelming compassion shown to the stricken Muamba, but the remarkable skill and expertise required to save his life.

If you are ready to write off mankind as craven, selfish and heartless - a failed species - consider the work that goes on in hospitals here and abroad, prolonging and improving people's lives.

ED does not know what role, if any, God has played in the Fabrice Muamba drama, but it has certainly been nudged into casting off its cynicism and remembering the fundamental decency - however flawed - of people.

And that, for a blog that trades on cheap shots and Schadenfreude, is as close to a religious experience as you are going to get.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I did my best and Andre knows it. I did not conspire against him and all the decisions we took, we took together. I have always behaved with the utmost professionalism and loyalty towards the club, the staff, the team and fans." Roberto Di Matteo insists he played no part in Andre Villas-Boas's departure from Chelsea.

FOREIGN VIEW: Ricardo Teixeira has severed his ties with football's international governing body, a week after he resigned as head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and organiser of the 2014 World Cup.

Teixeira said he was stepping down from FIFA's executive committee for personal reasons. He had been a member of the committee since 1994 and until recently was seen as a possible successor to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Teixeira's resignation brings down the curtain on a long and controversial career.

He took over as head of the Brazilian Football Confederation in 1989 and while Brazil won the World Cup twice during his time in office, the period was also notable for the constant allegations of corruption and shady business dealings.

A Congressional inquiry in 2001 accused him of 13 crimes ranging from tax evasion to money laundering and misleading lawmakers, although no charges were brought.

Last year, the former head of the Football Association David Triesman said Teixeira offered to back England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup in return for favours.

In February, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said a company linked to Teixeira had overcharged the organisers of a November 2008 friendly match between Brazil and Portugal.

Teixeira denied wrongdoing in all cases but the allegations came at the same time as criticism of Brazil's World Cup preparations was mounting.

COMING UP: Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland in the Premier League, plus a full slate of action in the Football League and Barcelona v Granada in Spain.

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