“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that” A famous quote from the late, great Bill Shankly. Shankly probably didn’t mean this literally yet recent events are showing that there may be some truth behind it. Sport is a massive part of my life, I’m a season ticket holder at Gillingham and a member at Kent and believe me it can ruin a weekend if we lose, But more important than life and death? Not a chance. Yet recent events which have been covered in the news perhaps put this sentence in to perspective.
South Korea & North Korea for example, who had not communicated in almost 2 years finally came to an agreement to speak in a move described by CNN as “the most significant thaw in relations between the neighbouring states in years”. Why did they speak? Well simply put, they spoke about the upcoming the winter Olympics. The winter Olympics are to take place in South Korea next month (February 2018) and North Korea are sending a group of athletes including a taekwondo team as well as a cheering squads, in a move that could help ease tensions in the east. It's not going to completely fix the unrest but it’s a step towards a more peaceful future. It’s a massive step for sport but an even bigger step for international relations.
Closer to home, Billy Monger, who was one of the up and coming British racers, was involved in a crash which nearly killed him. Luckily, he pulled through but had to deal with the torture of a double leg amputation. An end to his motorsport career? Not a chance. This week he was out driving with a stunt team at the NEC in Birmingham. Inspirational & courageous are just a couple of the words used to describe him and despite all the fears that he would undoubtedly have had before racing again he managed to perform to the joy of everyone in the arena. Billy still hopes to be driving in formula 3 very soon, why? Because it’s the sport he loves, so much so that it can nearly kill him, he can lose both his legs and he can still have the passion to compete again. That is the power of sport.
I said I supported Gillingham, My Dad got me in to it when I was just 5. He has supported the club for over 50 years himself and has racked up over 1000 games. Unfortunately, late in 2017 he was forced in to a coma and was put on life support, and for me, it put things in to perspective – for the first time in my life I wasn’t bothered by football, or by anything for that matter, it really does make you rearrange your priorities. Yet despite all the pain we as family experienced, sport would once again be involved. In intensive care we were told to talk to him about something he could relate too, something to trigger his senses, you guessed it, we spoke about football – you’ll be pleased to know he pulled through and is making a good recovery. Did talking about football save his life? No, that belongs to amazing nurses at QEQM hospital in Margate, but it might have just been that 1% he needed. Then, on the 30th December 2017 he was fit and well enough to come back to watch the football. AFC Wimbledon at home, hardly a classic. But he loved being back there and the smile on his face was there for all to all to see. Furthermore, the enjoyment of being back in the stands was enough to make the result seem insignificant which was lucky as we scraped to a 2-2 draw.
Bill Shankly probably said what he said in jest – its been quite rightly mocked in the past. But maybe sometimes, just sometimes football (and sport) can have this power. You may not be a sports fan but it is hard to argue with the impact it has had, not just for me personally but globally too.