Jim Murphy: The unifying force of football and why Bill Shankly was wrong

Mar 21, 12 02:46 PM in Jim Murphy

IT WAS the great Bill Shankly who said: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

After the events of the past few days, it is clear again that the Ayrshire footballing genius called it wrong.

Last weekend, four football teams had nothing other than victory on their minds. The teams in question were Spurs, Celtic, Bolton and Kilmarnock.

But by Sunday night, their priorities had been re-ordered.

Football is a form of escapism which can dominate life itself.

For many it is a lifestyle and shapes each weekend.

But anyone watching the Tottenham v Bolton FA Cup quarter-final or the Celtic v
Kilmarnock League Cup final would have witnessed another side of football.

Not one characterised by rivalry, anger, skill or luck but rather solace and the unifying force of football - we are all in many ways fans of football before we are fans of our clubs.

The sight of 23-year-old Fabrice Muamba collapsing on the pitch at White Hart Lane and the news that Kilmarnock player Liam Kelly's dad had collapsed in the Hampden tunnel after cheering on his boy to victory was a double shock.

As fans we focus on the immediate next challenge.

For Tottenham fans it's clinging on to third in the Premiership. For Bolton a battle against relegation.

For Celtic it was a chance at the Treble and for Kilmarnock the opportunity to make history.

But none of that mattered all of a sudden when we saw how serious Muamba's illness was and that a cardiac doctor had ran on to the pitch to join in his treatment.

None of it seemed important once you read the newspaper reports that young Kelly had travelled with his dad in the ambulance the short journey to the Victoria as his team mates collected their winner's medals.

Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels, brilliant at motivating his team, spoke for everyone when he said: "The cup final success has been overshadowed by something that is far more important than football."

As another Old Firm weekend approaches, Shiels is right and Shankly, unusually, was wrong.

It might not seem like it in the heat of the moment but there are many things more important than football. Let's remember that this weekend.

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