‘Grief Jockeying’ in the world of football

A social phenomenon that has come to light as a result of Patrice Muamba’s unfortunate illness.

football Grief Jockeying James Deri Muamba Opinion sport ucl

To begin with, I would like to make clear that in no way is this article aimed at Fabrice Muamba. I truly hope that he has a successful recovery. This is an analysis of a social phenomenon that has come to light as a result of his unfortunate illness.

I call it ‘grief jockeying’… when people jump onto the bandwagon of grief.

It all seemed to start when Princess Diana died, with the huge amount of media coverage and images of members of the public crying. But the Muamba episode takes it to another level, maybe partly advanced by the emergence of social networking sites.

In the past, people regularly grieved. In 1900 the life expectancy for a man was around 47, now it is about 77. So is grieving a part of human nature? Do people crave it?

Or perhaps people are no longer satisfied with simply watching the events; they have to join in with the performance. For example, we have seen the building of make-shift memorials for any celebrity that dies. In this case though, many people had ‘Pray for Muamba’ shirts printed. Bolton fans wearing football shirts saying ‘Thank you Spurs’. Thanks for what though? Being human beings?

Everyone under the sun has been tweeting, facebooking, or speaking with radio stations. Muamba is embarrassed by it; he just wants everyone to move on and his teammates to concentrate on the football. 

The other day I logged onto facebook to see tributes to Stiliyan Petrov. It seems that everyday I go onto the website people are letting me know that they are praying for someone. Does a Stockport County fan really leave a facebook status thinking that somehow Muamba will see it and it will help his recovery? No, they want their friends to see it and acknowledge that they are grieving for someone.

Speaking to a few Bolton fans around campus, they think that it is nice for Muamba to hear that he has support coming from all angles. Also, that the collective respect shown is healthy for being able to distinguish the game of football from ‘real life’. But a SSEES student, who is not a football fan, told me that; "there is plenty of suffering all around us, on a regular basis. So to give so much emphasis to Muamba just because he's a celebrity can only mean that they are either blind or apathetic to suffering”

I wonder what would happen if, god forbid, something like this happened to a UCL sports player. Obviously it would rock the university community. But would it get nationwide attention and a barrage of tributes on social networking sites? Perhaps the people, who prayed for Muamba even though had never heard of him before he collapsed, would also tweet the student.

People are feeling sorry for themselves due to their craving for grief. So, for whose benefit is the enormous display of caring? Perhaps it is for the people grieving themselves…