It is only a game
‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’ I am sure that Shankly had his tongue very firmly in his cheek when he said this, but there was one sporting event this week that really did show how trivial football is.
Thanks to a weekend away I missed Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Ebbsfleet, so had to follow all of the weekend’s football on Twitter. The worst thing about reading news on social networks is the total lack of context. Around a third of those I follow on Twitter are interested in football, while a similar number are involved in MotoGP. The result was that on Sunday comments and jokes about the result in the Manchester derby were juxtaposed with the messages from a group of people coming to terms with the tragic loss of one of the young stars of their sport.
Marco Simoncelli was only 24 years old. Already a world champion in the 250cc category, he was sure to be a champion in the premier class at some point. There have been some very poignant memories of Marco written by those who knew him and worked with him. This from the BBC’s Matt Roberts, or this from Toby Moody of Eurosport stand out. As does this, from former world champion, Kevin Schwantz.
MotoGP may be a sport that tours the world, but it is essentially a village of a few hundred people who travel and work together for around a third of the year. It is difficult to imagine the effect that a tragedy like this has on the whole sport.
The campaigning of riders in the 1970s led to huge developments in safety. The result is that deaths in motorcycle racing on tracks are thankfully incredibly rare. But the vulnerability of the riders means that MotoGP fans, and all who take part in the sport, understand the risks that each rider take. MotoGP will go on, of course, and the riders will continue to face these risks because it is what they love doing. But this doesn’t diminish the shock when something goes wrong.
It should remind us that as football fans we should be grateful that we never have to experience an event like this.
The worst thing that I have seen at a football game is when Eastbourne Borough goalkeeper, Danny Knowles, broke his leg in front of me, but at the end of the day a broken leg may be a big blow to the player, it may even end his career, but he will still go home to his family. There have been a very small number of players who have died playing football, and of course, Rushden and Diamonds experienced their own loss last year, but in all reality it is almost certain that we will never have to live through anything like this.
For the last few seasons we have lost our ground, spent time worrying about whether our club will even exist in the future and have seen a terrible start to the season. But even if the worst were to happen, if the chairman closed down the club tomorrow, it would still only be football.