Cartilage Free Captain is collecting and posting stories and memories from our community in commemoration of the last ever match at White Hart Lane, which will take place this Sunday against Manchester United.
This is one of two FanPosts written about Fabrice Muamba. A link to the other is in the comments. I'm glad someone wrote about Fabrice, thank you.
I became a Tottenham Hotspur fan in 2005. Like many United States children my age, I had grown up playing soccer but didn't watch much soccer because it just wasn't on television in the 1990's. That all changed when I went to college and was randomly assigned a roommate. Said roommate turned out to be an Arsenal fan and I began watching games with him. Whether out of spite or of love of the underdog, I soon became a diehard Tottenham fan (or what I thought was a diehard fan). Surprisingly, that random roommate and I are still friends. We are still friend even after I sent far too many St. Totteringham's day texts after the North London Derby two weeks ago.
I didn't get the opportunity to attend a live match until I moved to London for grad school in December 2012. I only spent seven months in London but in that seven months I made it my mission to attend as many Tottenham games as possible. In those days it was really hard to get tickets second hand. There was no StubHub relationship and Gareth Bale was becoming a world class phenom that everyone needed to see. I shamefully got ripped off a few times but I still managed to make it to 12 games that spring.
I became a true die hard after that first game. I saw Spurs dismantle Wigan with a goal from Modric and a brace from Bale. I still smile thinking about that day. I was by myself and the season tickets holders around me embraced me as one of their own. They taught me the songs, the cheers, and even gave me some White Hart Lane history. I was hooked even before they invited me to the pub for a beer after. I grew up going to Green Bay Packers games at Lambeau Field, a magical experience, this was better.
Even after that first magical match, the memory ingrained in my brain is Fabrice Muamba. If you do not remember, Fabrice was a 23 year old player for Bolton Wanderers who collapsed in the middle of a game at White Hart Lane. Fabrice was a little out of the play at the time of his collapse and the crowds (and mine) reaction was to jeer Fabrice's dive. You see Fabrice was an Arsenal youth. It soon became apparent something was very wrong. It was terrifying, everyone was terrified, it was silent. In the now infamous story, one of the best heart doctors in England was in the stands and rushed on to the field.
What I truly remember that day is the time Fabrice laid on the field. This wasn't football anymore. It was 35,000 people willing a man to standup, to move, to live. No one left and no one moved but people chanted and prayed for Fabrice. When Fabrice was stretchered off the field and Howard Webb called the game no one knew what to do. We all just stood. Leaving felt like giving up. Eventually we did leave and went home hoping for the best. Thankfully, Fabrice's life was saved by that doctor and countless other spectacular medical professionals.
Football is unfortunately infamous for hooliganism, fighting, racism, and many other awful incidents. That day was special because people really do care about other people. 35,000 people proved it that day and a mans life was saved.
That Bolton game wasn't finished until much later in the season. Thankfully, I was able to go to the next game at the Lane though. Tottenham didn't win that day and it doesn't matter. The crowd was so quite and demure to start the game. It felt weird to watch players running and playing after what had happened. It wasn't the Lane I learned to love. Then football happened. Spurs went down and the crowd swelled. Tottenham badly needed the points that day against a surprisingly good Swansea team in order to finish top four and secure Champions League football. Eventually Rafael Van der Vaart saved the day and salvaged a point. Everyone left that day elated at the point but I am confident not a single fan could forget what happened the week before. We were all grateful Fabrice was with his family that day.
Even though I've been to a few games since and I've enjoyed the tremendous Van der Vaart, the man who equalized in that game back against Swansea, the skills of Kane, Eriksen, and Lloris... those 12 games and a Bolton midfielder will always be the highlight of my Tottenham fandom.
The fact that Chelsea stole our Champions league place doesn't leave me bitter at all.