Even for those of us who spend too much of our time absorbed in football and who have a tendency to, unthinkingly, elevate its importance in life; it is times like these that remind us that football isn’t more important than life or death, to paraphrase the late great Bill Shankly. The tragic plane crash in Colombia and the horrifying stories emerging about the treatment of young aspiring footballers originally emanating from Crewe but now apparently involving at least 14 police forces across the UK; remind us that football is at best, as Carlo Ancelotti so brilliantly pointed out, merely ‘the most important of the less important things in the world’.
Without being armed with anything like the full facts and details of the cases of abuse being investigated; and reminding myself that this blog is about being a football obsessive and not designed to provide a commentary on society; I will respectfully decline to comment.
The Chapecoense air crash is something that can’t have failed to devastate any real football fan. I won’t pretend to have known very much about Chapecoense or their astonishing ascent to prominence from Brazil’s fourth division towards the pinnacle of South American football in just seven years. However having learnt what I have about their story over the last couple of days, it makes the ever so tragic ending even harder to accept. Even though I have no connection whatsoever to Brazil, the club or any of the players; other than a love and passion for all things football and being a sucker for a fairy tale success story such as theirs was; the news still hit me hard.
Maybe it is understanding the role that a football club can play in your life, maybe it is sadness that a team that had come so far but seemed to have even more to offer was halted so cruelly in its prime, or maybe it was shock at such a tragic accident; but it seems very much as if the football community is in mourning.
One of my friends, who I play five-a-side with, keen to show support for the families of those lost and the club, has started a petition to try to convince Sports Direct (UK sports shop run by Mike Ashley owner of Newcastle United) to stock the official Chapecoense shirt and pledge the money raised to those who lost their loved ones in the plane crash (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/chapecoense-shirts). The idea being that all of us would wear a Chapecoense shirt for one of our weekly games and use it as the basis for fundraising; it is our way of doing something, however small.
In a funny way it is during tragic times like this that our faith in football is restored, the way that fans, players, clubs and everyone has come together to try do our bit reminds us of the true spirit of the game. We might not be able to put things right but we can let the Chapecoense family know that we are here for them, that we support them and we will do whatever we are able to help them to move forward. The heartfelt gesture by their opponents in the final, Atlético Nacional to request that Chapecoense are declared champions, as well as the offers from Brazilian giants Flamengo, Palmeiras and Sao Paolo to loan players to the club to allow them to complete the season, serve as reminders of the power of the game that we all love to bind us together, even in such tragic circumstances.