Football, Cricket, Death – A2Z – Sports

26th November, 2014.

Image courtesy.

I don’t know when I heard the news. I probably saw the footage on a computer screen, but I’m not sure of that either. Australia batsman Phillip Hughes had died, hit on the neck in a domestic match by a delivery from Sean Abbott.

I do remember returning to my flat after work and, checking the news again and again, breaking into sobs in the loo.

Why did it affect me so much? Hughes wasn’t Indian. I’d seen him play in India, on tv, but I had no fandom for him. Yet, like with many other around the globe, a cricketer dying on the field broke my heart too.

Then, a month later, even though India lost a Test match there, I was moved by the spidercam visual of the Australians celebrating on the turf where 408 was painted. 408, Hughes’ Baggy Green cap number.

Australia celebrate the win. Image courtesy.

Hughes’ death brought head safety and concussions into much sharper focus. No more calls for ill-advised “bravery” and “manning up” now.

Atalanta FC is a team in Serie A, the Italian first division football competition. On February 11th, they were scheduled to host Valencia CF of Spain in the UEFA Champions League round of 16. Atalanta’s stadium in Bergamo being smaller than the UEFA mandated-limits meant they had to shift this match to the San Siro stadium in Milan. 40,000 fans travelled from Bergamo and Valencia to witness the match. Atalanta won 4-1. Days later, the coronavirus epidemic took strong hold in Bergamo. Bergamo is the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy. Experts have now identified that match as Game Zero of the spread of the virus.

Here’s a highlights video of that match. Notice the crowds, notice the excellent quality of football on the pitch, and then think of the coronavirus spread the match enabled.

Sport is one of the fundamental things that brings joy to our life. Rich and poor, young and old, men and women – every single one of us can feel the joy of sport. Even beginning to think of the pain leaves the mind numb. Football, calcio as the Italians call it, bringing pain and death into their lives? The mind staggers at how people there must be feeling now.

There have been football tragedies in the past. Hillsborough, Heysel, Munich, to name a few. But despite the horrors of these incidents, their direct toll of lives taken was far smaller than what the Milan game will end up having.

The world moves on. Football will resume. We will cheer for our favourite teams again. But, as we shuddered at the demise of Phillip Hughes, we’d probably not forget Bergamo in a hurry.

Sport adds meaning and value to our lives. In our mundane individual existences, it brings a sense of shared joy and community. That sport could obliquely be the reason for the present horrors is pain of the highest order.

This post is published as part of the Blogchatter A2Z, running through the month of April.

Thanks for reading.

20 Comments

  1. It is very sad that such a gathering of joy could be the source of a deadly illness for many. In this time of social distancing, sports is what we’re all going to miss the most. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There have been many tears (and breaking of television sets!!) due to sporting events, but none will compare to this. As life goes on, we must accept this as another tragedy and just focus on the brighter side.
    shimmeringsunshine.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true. Hopefully things will get brighter soon.

      I only just noticed that your comment was in the spam folder. Apologies for the delayed response. 🙂

      Like

  3. I vividly remember the Phil Hughes incident. We were driving towards Goa when my friend pinged me with the news. I think, after Raman Lamba, Hughes was the first in many years to succumb to injury while playing. Sean Abbott, the bowler, was an emotional wreck and it was heartening to see that no one vilified him. Btw, Abbott hit another batsman, Will Pucowski, in a Sheffield Shield match last year in a scary reenactment of the Hughes incident.

    This Corona virus is bringing out both the best and worst out of sport. It’s heartening to see players and clubs rallying together to support the stricken, but on the flipside there’s Liverpool who tried to furlough the non playing staff’s salaries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think all of us cricket fans would have our own horrible memories of that day.

      I think Abbott coming back from that and even getting into the national team is a remarkable story in itself.

      I think sooner or later, all clubs and leagues would need to take harsh decisions. I wasn’t aware of Liverpool targetting the non-playing staff. Clubs like Barcelona and Juventus have cut players’ salaries, I guess. The teams in the leagues below the top-tiers would need the most assistance, because they’re far more dependent on gate receipts than the big names.

      Thanks for the wonderfully detailed comment. 🙂

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  4. I do remember the Phil Hughes incident. Just like you we watched it again and again. I’m not such a follower but my husband is.
    Your contemplation rather makes sense. Though personally I wouldn’t like to put the onus on one stray incident. For several reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would have probably said the same had the match not resulted in the horror that Bergamo, in particular, is going through. But that’s fine. We can agree to disagree. 🙂

      Thanks for the detailed comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I can feel that statement in my own bones, and would’ve supported it wholeheartedly. But as this pandemic has shown, maybe we were all wrong, players, coaches and fans alike.

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  5. I have played a lot of sport. Lots of different ones too. Football. cricket, table tennis, bowls, hockey, squash and more. I tried my hands at alot of things but all at a low to average competance. I could kick with both feet and at 5 a side football I was lethal. However, as the years took their toll on my body (particularly knees, ankles and hips) I had to stop playing. And so I ran and managed two football teams. Not to win necessarily but to enjoy. Then I coached at junior cricket in which my son played and they were hugely successful, moving on to the senior teams of our village club. I then took up the cudgeles and was vice captain of our third team and bowled a bit. I could still bowl a mean leg spin. Then that all finished and I was reduced to being a spectator. Mostly of professional football. Oh how I have become disallusioned. Falling down as if polaxed and continuously screaming at the referee. If their antics were not bad enough, they are now being mimicked by the young kids.
    I have not missed modern sport one bit. However I have watched some of the great games of the 60s and 70s recently and although of a slower pace and less skill, they played like gentlemen. I don’t for example, remember Bobby Moore or Bobby Charlton needing medical attention at all, despite being kicked all over the ground. In my day all they would have got was a sponge soaked in icy cold water. I am not advocating the return of the sponge but in those days they were men, not whingeing teenagers (or just older). Oh how nice it would be to go back and pay just a shilling to watch Hull City play Stockport County.
    I can dream can’t I?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First up, thanks for the detailed comment.
      It’s great to know that you played a lot of different sports back in the day. Most people don’t understand the wonders of picking up a sport, let alone three.
      About the argument that modern sportspersons are either dishonest/softies, I don’t think I concur. Yes, there are prima donnas and unscrupulous players whose style borders on the worst sort of gamesmanship. But I don’t think sport as a whole has gone down. Regards the cheating angle, with the advent of VAR and DRS, in football and cricket respectively, it’s far harder to cheat and get a decision in your favour. Sure, there can be a soft free kick here and there. But that’s that.
      About modern players being weak, so to say, we have to take into account the sort of schedule modern players have. Take Cricket. While back in the day, teams used to have long tours with ample time to acclimatise and take breaks in between matches, today it is cramped with matches all around the world. The demands on the human body are greater, and that’s showing. Regards cheating, there are horrible examples from the past too, like Bodyline, or Eusebio being basically kicked out of the ’66 WC, or Toni Schumacher in the ’82 WC.

      As for dreaming, that’s our biggest strength as a species, isn’t it? The power of our dreams. 🙂

      Like

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