Millions of football lovers all over the world watching the FA Cup quarter-final match between Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers at White Hart Lane, North London last Saturday were shocked to see Congolese-born Fabrice Muamba collapse in the course of duty. It was a horrific sight to see players and fans alike, break down in tears as they feared the worst.
After 10 minutes of activity as medics fought to save Muambaâ€™s life, referee Howard Webb did the right thing to abandon the match while the combative midfielder was being rushed to the London Chest Hospital. It was, however, heartwarming to see the coming together of the entire football world as messages of goodwill poured in.
Football matches that have taken place since then in many countries all over the world have been marked by various gestures of support for the England Under-21 international whose subsequent return to life has been widely described as a miracle because, according to the doctors, the man was in effect dead for 78 minutes.
It is incidents like these that help put life into perspective. Much as we love football, or indeed any form of sport or aspect of life for that matter, life is the most important thing. That is why Bolton Wanderers did not take training until Wednesday when it became apparent that Muamba had a fighting chance to pull through.
It was only then that Wanderers confirmed that this afternoonâ€™s match at home to Blackburn Rovers would go ahead after Tuesdayâ€™s away fixture against Aston Villa was postponed in the wake of Saturdayâ€™s events. The Trotters have also told the FA that they would be able to face Spurs again to settle the FA Cup tie that was abandoned.
Whenever I see events like this one, I ask myself what would happen if such an incident were to happen here at home. Clubs all over the world have put special emphasis on the medical side of the game which sees players undergoing a series of thorough tests before they are signed on and they hire doctors of the highest calibre as part of the backroom staff.
Every time I look at the bench of a Malawian team, including the national team I dare add, I get a bit nervous. For sure, if Muamba had decided to flee to Malawi owing to the war in his country and decided to play for any of our teams, we would have buried him as I write. We are simply not prepared for emergencies, not even of that magnitude.
With due respect to the medical people we have in our teams, not many deserve to be called team doctors. Even if they were, you cannot have only one medical person and convince yourselves as a team that you have the medical side taken care of. We need to do much more and it is the duty of FAM to ensure that this is not optional for every team.
And in doing that, FAM itself needs to take the lead in ensuring that it has a robust medical department that sees to it that players that feature for its teams are certified fit by highly competent people on its payroll. If the required skills are not readily available, I am sure it should be possible to get sponsorship to train some people for the specific needs that may be identified.
The long and short of it is that we have no excuse for not investing in the lives of our players. Even poverty or lack of funds is not valid. Players need to live before they can do anything on the pitch and that should be the priority.