The art of grieving without grieving

Something has been bugging me recently. I was watching Manchester United V Aston Villa on MOTD 2 and I was intrigued to see that Manchester United had ordered a minute’s silence for the Livorno footballer Piermario Morosini who’d sadly collapsed and died during a Serie B match. My first thought was “that’s a nice gesture” and then it was quickly followed by a “what in god’s name does it have to do with Manchester United?”, actually I think I tweeted “what the fuck does it have to do with them?”

To me grief has always been a private thing. I’ve experienced it first hand a few times in my 36 years and it never ceases to amaze me just how people use grief to wash over things that happened between the person who died. It should, to my mind anyway, be an emotion that helps people close to that person deal with a huge loss. I will bet you a million pounds that if you asked anyone in Old Trafford a couple of weeks ago who Piermario Morosini was, the reaction would’ve been a 100% “who”? In that case why hold a minutes silence for 75,000 odd people who barely knew who they were showing respect for? Was it just a case of Diana syndrome? Has the media helped shape society that we know into one that grieves for little personal reason? Is it just clubs being respectful? Are they doing it because they think the paying public and the wider football society now excepts it? Or is there a more sinister undertone? Are some of bigger clubs and the media desperately trying to exploit these tragic events to portray themselves as bastions of respect and decency in the eyes of the footballing world?

I could be wrong of course, but the thought of 75,000 English football fans being forced into a minutes silence for an 2nd division Italian footballer who nobody knew before strikes me as being more disrespectful than respectful and decent. But I guess it depends on how you perceive the words “grief” and “respect”. As I’ve said I think grief should be a very private thing and respect whether giving or receiving should be with a good reason why. For that reason I find that the latest media circus surrounding Stiliyan Petrov, Fabrice Muamba and Piermario Morosini leaves me a little bit cold. The reasons to grieve and show respect should be personal choices and not because the media and the big football clubs imply that you should be doing so whether you want to or not. This is our choice to make. If you are forced into something you don’t believe in then respect and grief is diminished isn’t it? Or am I missing the point?

The events surrounding Fabrice Muamba made me think about how much of a risk my own cardio-vascular health is to me. Considering that I’m overweight, don’t do enough exercise and have a love of Blue cheese matched only by my attraction to French Brunettes with evil minds, it’s a major worry for me. But “Pray for Muamba?”. Sorry, but fuck off. I’m not religious in anyway shape or form. I’m sorry to hear about Stiliyan
Petrov being diagnosed with acute leukaemia but it shouldn’t be used by the BBC as a vehicle in their quest to seemingly make football a warm bed of emotional content.

There were sad scenes in Livorno as their former player did a lap of honour in a herse around Livorno’s Stadio Armando Picci. The Livorno players all wore Morosini’s number 25 shirt and wept for their team-mate. Igor Protti has said that part of the stadium will be renamed after him and the number 25 shirt will be retired in his honour. The club have also pledged to financially support Morosini’s severely disabled sister. The Italian Football Federation also decreed that a minutes silence would be held at all Italian matches in his memory. I don’t have any issue with any of that as a fair amount of Italian football fans would’ve known of Morosini. I just question why an English club with absolutely no connection to the player would also have a minutes silence in his honour. If a bloke dies playing for a team in Mongolian 2nd division should we mourn for them as well? Or should we just mourn dead players from recognised and important football nations?

So is it just an innocent gesture? Do clubs really believe that their fans and the wider football world are demanding that a minute’s silence should be shown even if there is a tiny link or no link with the player concerned? If it is, is this a good thing? I would argue not. In my opinion it undermines the whole principles behind grief and respect. After all how can you grieve or show respect for someone you don’t know? That’s not to say that I don’t feel anything for people in Homs being gunned down by government troops, the victims of the two massive tsunamis or fellow London commuters who lost their lives going to the work on the same day I did.

I think that there are some sinister undertones into this augmentation of emotion in football. I think clubs coupled with the media have seen certain events as a convenient vehicle which acts as a Lourdes and washes away all the sins of modern football. From the on-field antics of the players diving and cheating, the corruption and greed off the pitch and the reactionary new breed of middle class idiots who all sign up to a glory charter and have a hissy fit when teams like Stoke don’t lie down and let Arsenal stick 7 past them, plus of course the moaning twats who use phone-ins and social media sites to showcase their opinions of absolutely everything. But of course the above doesn’t really matter when you can show a bit of respect for someone with a #prayformuamba hashtag on Twitter. The BBC in particular seem to be trying to showcase every bit of grief possible. The phrase I’ve heard recently at football matches is “Who’s having the minutes silence today”?

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