“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I felt this quote was particularly apt given what England and the world of football have witnessed over the last few weeks. Just after my last letter, London suffered the latest attempt by extremists, or an extremist in this case. Extremists use such attacks in an effort to stoke fear and loathing to achieve their dreamed end by hoping to unsettle us in what they see as our comfort and convenience. There are many who feed off such incidents and assumed fear to justify their own extreme approach to dealing with extremists, and see no contradiction in that. This was an opportunity to paint a false picture. One news organization here in the US claimed that the UK was “cowing with fear”. A claim that many jumped on, and in this time of social media, retweeted, forwarded, and reposted. Having lived in England for most of my adult life, witnessing how Brits cope with terror attacks is as hard to explain to someone as it is inspiring to witness. This country, these people, will not be shaken.
And then more recently, there was another attempt by extremists, this time launched at football team Borussia Dortmund on their way to a UEFA Champions League game against Monaco. I won’t go in to detail about my feelings toward UEFA and club officials for seemingly insisting the game goes ahead less than 24 hours later. Nor will I address the game itself and how it played out tactically, or the result. Despite have their lives flash before their eyes the Dortmund players suited up and got on with it, albeit understandably reluctantly. Never mind their slow start to the game, the way they finished spoke more of the human spirit than it did football, tactics, coaches, administrators or anything else.
My greatest take away from that incident was the response of the Dortmund and Monaco fans to it all. With many Dortmund fans opening up their homes to the Monaco fans. And Monaco fans showing their fullest support for all of Dortmund. That is what sport and its fans is all about. We are quick to highlight football and its players’ comfort and convenience. We now know where the game stands in times of challenge and controversy, it mirrors where the majority of us stand as a community. And that is the ultimate measure of us all.