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Argentina fans’ reaction to Neymar’s injury: Ugly incident in Football shows Cricket is a gentleman’s sport, after all

Neymar's (left) injury made the Argentina fans celebrate in joy © Getty Images
Neymar’s (left) injury made the Argentina fans celebrate in joy © Getty Images

The response of Argentine fans to Brazil football star Neymar’s injuries have been horrific, to say the least. Neymar got injured during Brazil’s FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter-final clash against Colombia. Argentina fans basked in the moment during their side’s match against Belgium. Abhishek Mukherjee explains the ugly incident in football shows why cricket still remains pure despite all efforts to mar the sport.

While growing up I have been under the impression that cricket was a “gentleman’s sport”. Reading about the injuries caused during ‘Bodyline’ and by the West Indian fast bowlers did not change my opinion, and neither had sledging [humorous, innovative]; match-fixing, however, did.

Cricket was perhaps never a gentleman’s sport. People did, and still do, fix matches. There have been reasons beyond on-field performances for cricketers to be picked and dropped. The illusions are disappearing with every passing day. The phrase “Spirit of Cricket” is not well-defined, but I did get goosebumps when Adam Gilchrist had walked or MS Dhoni had recalled Ian Bell. These, however, were stray incidents: recalling and walking are not the norm. Cricket is not as pristine as they make out to be.

Then came Luis Suarez’s infamous bite that went viral on the internet. It was the third occasion when Suarez had bitten someone on the field, and people were more amused than anguished [how does one react to a person who bites opposition players?]. Then came the horrifying assault of Juan Camilo Zuniga (okay, Zúñiga) on Neymar Jr, ruling him out of the FIFA World Cup 2014.

I was saddened, especially after the Neymar’s injury. I am not an avid football follower [though I have been tuning in for the occasional FIFA World Cup 2014 contest, following Brazil and the three cricket-playing nations — Australia, England, and Netherlands], but injuries, especially of vertebral fracture, did have a serious impact on me.

I cannot visualise a Rahul Dravid biting a Michael Clarke or an AB de Villiers pouncing upon a Mahela Jayawardene and breaking his spine, but one can give football the benefit of doubt for the sole reason that it is more of a body-contact sport than cricket. Injuries, even deliberate ones, are more frequent in football for a reason.

What disturbed me deeply was the reaction of the Argentine fans following Neymar’s injuries. The Argentina-Brazil rivalry in football is intense enough to have reached a football agnostic like me: it is quite acceptable that the supporters from one of these nations will celebrate the other team’s elimination from the FIFA World Cup. One often gets such news from India and Pakistan in cricket for similar reasons.

Given the passion sport brings in to people, that is expected. This, on the other hand, is not:

The chant, “acá tenemos la columna de Neymar”, translates to “here we have the column (spinal cord) of Neymar”. The word “sick” is often used on social media to describe something gruesome, appalling, sub-human; this, unfortunately, belongs to that category.

It can be argued whether Suarez’s bite or Zuniga’s attack was deliberate. Even if they were, they were done in the heat of the moment and were impulsive actions. This, however, was not: despite the animosity, one really cannot visualise English supporters dancing with replicas of various parts of human anatomy after Bert Oldfield’s injury or Barbadians after Mike Gatting’s or Australians after David Lloyd’s.

It is a gentleman’s sport, after all, despite everything.

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(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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