This week the football world rightly demonstrated significant humility in the wake of Fabrice Muamba’s shocking cardiac arrest at White Hart Lane. Many footballers offered their words of support. Some wore T-shirts in support of Muamba. Some went further. For example, Thierry Henry flew 12 hours, straight after a game in the US, to visit Muamba at his London hospital before flying back again.
It put everything into perspective. I thought to myself maybe football is not the cold, cynical, cash cow which I label it to be. Yet today, scrolling through the news, I stumble across the following.
Real Madrid are planning to build a ‘Resort Island’ in the UAE. Ofcourse, where else would it be built…
There will be sports facilities including a 10,000 seater stadium (with an ocean view). Great, the biggest football club in the world are giving something back. Hang on, there will also be hotels, villas, a luxury marina and an amusement park – which I am sure will be completely affordable to the vast majority of football fans all over the world…
Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez said, “It is a decisive and strategic step that will strengthen our institution in the Middle East and Asia.” This is translated as ‘we’re not content with the money we have, we want more – alot more.’
The proposed 430,000 square metre site will not be cheap – $1bn (and supported by the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah).
$1bn is the cost. $1bn!
Following Muamba’s collapse, thorough and frequent medical screenings are more important than they have ever been. Muamba’s life was saved because there were significant health and safety improvements at Premier League football grounds following Petr Cech’s fractured skull in 2006.
The $1bn investment in the Middle East is a disgrace but that is the way of the world. In the last few years, Barcelona sold their soul, as their previously life-long stance of ‘we will not tarnish our shirts with a sponsor’ ended after the lure of millions from the Qatar Foundation. Then we get Qatar being awarded the 2022 World Cup even though they were considered the only ‘high risk’ candidate across all of the countries applying to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Brown paper bags.
Football needs to think about the bigger picture. FIFA must order all Football Associations to spend a significant amount of money safeguarding health – not just at the top-tier level but at grassroots too. A life is a life.