At the time of writing this – 1am on Sunday morning – a 23 year old professional footballer is critically ill in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital. With every passing hour there is tentative hope although I have also read reports this evening stating that only a small percentage of individuals who require such resuscitation survive. I am fearful of the worst and fully expect to wake tomorrow to the news that Fabrice Muamba – an England Under-21 captain, father to a young boy, and someone widely said to be one of the nicest guys in football – has died.
Even this awful situation however is preferable to earlier when people were understandably under the assumption that he already had. 41 minutes into Bolton’s FA Cup tie with Spurs the midfielder collapsed to the turf and he stopped breathing. On several further occasions his heart failed and it is only due to the incredible work of the medical staff on hand that there is still a chance he may yet recover.
For such a terrible fate to befall a fit and healthy Premier League footballer during a match – and live on television no less – was obviously an extremely newsworthy circumstance. Those watching on ESPN looked on aghast, sharing the same sickening sense of helplessness that was evidently felt so acutely in the ground itself by both sets of supporters. Those without access to the channel hurriedly tuned into radio stations and clamoured onto social network sites and forums, to hear of developments and share their distress. As Rodney Marsh so succinctly put it on Twitter, the football family held its breath while up and down the country households discussed the horrifying events that were unfolding.
Many people prayed – religious or not – and there was a desperate collective will for the player to be okay. The reports however were not encouraging.
With the match rightfully abandoned and with no further visual aids the concerned public turned to other media sources to find out whatever we could, namely your own website, the BBC and Daily Mail websites, Sky Sports News and Radio 5.
The BBC updated its coverage minute-by-minute and did so in the sensitive and mature manner you would expect from them. They ran these updates beneath an archived photograph of the player.
The Mail’s piece contained pictures of the player receiving medical treatment – as did the Telegraph’s online news site – but crucially the stricken Muamba could not be seen through the huddle of doctors and medics. Additionally there were images of team-mates consoling each other and players praying on the pitch.
Covering such an awful occurrence – where a man’s life hangs in the balance – is, I should imagine, a delicate balancing act between providing a comprehensive account of what has happened and displaying suitable tact and discretion.
After all there will be many people who personally know the man. And with him being a famous footballer there will be many, many more who feel they know him. These individuals would be amongst the readers – his son perhaps, certainly his extended family and friends – desperately seeking out any news or statements, assurances or gut-wrenching confirmations from your sites.
Seeing their father, son, cousin, childhood friend, the player who once signed your shirt outside the Reebok Stadium, prone and possibly dead would be horrifying.
With this in mind I personally believe the BBC, the Mail and ESPN – who undoubtedly was under the most scrutiny of all – trod this delicate line of taste well all things considered.
I had no right to see that and you certainly had no right to publish it.
You however….and why is it always you?…..decided to dispense with basic human decency and go down the sensationalistic route. With Fabrice Muamba still en route to the hospital – and widely presumed deceased – you published a large clear photograph of the player prostrate on the floor. His eyes looked shocked and confused.
I had no right to see that and you certainly had no right to publish it.
So why did I click on the link after being told by a stranger online that you had indeed printed a photograph in the worst possible kind of distasteful intrusion?
Because despite knowing for 37 years what a vile amoral publication you are – capable of the grossest acts of bullying, cruelty, lies and bile – I still couldn’t quite believe that you had the sheer gall to do so again.
Because it is fair to say that you have form here.
Your rag of sauce and hatred is still not bought in the Merseyside area twenty-three years after you ran with one of the most infamous and disgraceful untruths in the history of the British media. Four days after 96 football supporters were crushed to death at Hillsborough, and with a nation still numbed by shock and grief, you decided to splash ‘The Truth’ across your front page above sick and falsified claims that were anything but. Alleging in that sensationalistic way of yours that pertains to fact that fans picked the pockets of the dead, beat up a police constable who was attempting to give the kiss of life, and urinated on ‘brave cops’ you then vehemently stood by these surreal and outrageous falsehoods for many years. This caused not only intense pain and hurt to the bereaved and a city in need of comfort but also significantly derailed a fight for justice that continues to this day.
It polluted minds and ruined lives, a signature move of yours that once again made a mockery of your self-built image of being the paper of the common man. It’s a dichotomy that never fails to amaze – that you place such stock in representing the very people you quite evidently view as worthless scum. Us. The British public.
In 2005 your managing director Graham Dudman described it as ‘the worst mistake in our history’. This followed a front page apology that could well have been mumbled from a petulant teen. With no genuine remorse you intimated that the protracted ill-feeling in the north-west was orchestrated by the Trinity Mirror owned local press and pointed out that your editor – Rebekah Wade – was a 20 year old student at the time of the tragedy. ‘Time to move on’ you said. And with that Wade did move on. To resigning in the wake of the hacking scandal that appalled the nation and wider world.
We’re starting to see a pattern here irrespective of who sits behind the big chief’s desk. Whether it’s the odious MacKenzie or the satanic Murdoch, the common denominator is always you, the ‘super soaraway’ Sun.
With your tits and lies and your cheeky facade hopelessly failing to mask a pious debasing rhetoric you have been a virulent disease in this country since 1963. In human form would any of your readers befriend you? Or would they see you for the spiteful, evil, rotten-to-the-core entity you truly are?
Was there any regret for your actions? Evidently not considering your decision today.
Your half-arsed and insulting apology for your Hillsborough fabrications came soon after you were the only newspaper to print a full and clear image of the stricken body of Marc-Vivien Foe as he lay dead on a pitch in Lyon, France. On international duty for Cameroon the 28 year old Manchester City midfielder suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed onto the turf.
City and West Ham fans – who thought the world of MVF – woke to see him deprived of dignity and splashed across your front page. His eyes looked shocked and confused.
Again you received widespread condemnation for doing this.
Was there any regret for your actions? Evidently not considering your decision today to once again prioritise numbers over decency by showing in graphic detail what might yet be the last moments of a young man’s life.
Being embroiled at the centre of the hacking scandal and the consequent Levison Enquiry it was hoped that you might change your ways. Hangdog contriteness by your owner and others in light of the shocking revelations suggested you might at least pretend to have a shred of value if only for a short while.
But we were idiots for even contemplating this weren’t we? Scum is scum and always will be. It is embedded in your DNA.
There is no doubt in my mind however that the tide is turning and though you might still reside folded on the dashboard of a considerable number of white vans the people of this country now demand and expect something that you are innately incapable of supplying in our media: decency. Just that. Basic human decency.
And should you ever fall – and please God make that day soon occur – and there is footage on the news of your HQ being emptied of boxes and staff I hope with every fibre of my being that I witness someone – whether it be a journalist or executive – walk down the steps into the evening light with a certain look on their face. For their eyes to look shocked and confused.