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Football, the difference between life and death?

Bill Shankly had famously said that football was much more important than a matter of life and death.

Alexandre Pato (L) of AC Milan shoots and misses a penalty during the Serie A match between AC Milan and ACF Fiorentina

And it looks like some Milan ‘fans’ took Shankly’s quote way too seriously, after they surrounded and threatened Brazilian star Alexandre Pato in his car, during his way out of the San Siro, following Milan’s 3-1 defeat to Fiorentina.

The fans were apparently disgruntled over Pato missing a penalty and Milan going down timidly later in the match.

Andres Escobar

Pato’s case brings to mind many such incidents, where players have been attacked (or killed) by fans for having the odd bad game or for reasons like scoring an own goal, which sends your team out of the World Cup.

Yes, the writer is referring to Colombia’s Andres Escobar, who scored an own goal against the United States in the 1994 World Cup, which lead to Colombia’s ouster from the tournament.

Escobar later had to pay with his life for his ‘mistake’, as he was shot down by members of a Colombian drug cartel, for the World Cup exit had supposedly caused heavy gambling losses to the powerful mafia bosses.

Paraguayan striker Salvador Cabanas is another guy who had incurred the wrath of a Mexican drug lord during his time at Primera division team, Club America.

Cabanas was shot in the head at a bar in Mexico City over an apparent dispute  and had to be rushed off for an immediate craniatomy surgery.

Salvador Cabanas

Though, doctors had to call off the surgery midway (as they found it too risky to remove the bullet lodged in Cabanas’ brain), he has made a miraculous recovery over the years (with the bullet still lodged in his head though, a header here or there can prove to be fatal), as he took part in a tribute match between the Paraguayan national side and Club America, and still continues to play for Paraguayan third division side, 12 de Octubre.

And last, but not the least, the most shocking incident will have to be one involving former Arsenal youngster, Sam Kanu.

Kanu, who retired from the game early owing to a knee injury, was left battered after a race related attack.

Kanu, who worked as an entertainment officer for the London Mayor and had set up a club for aspiring street footballers after ending his footballing career, is now wheel chair bound, with brain damage and loss of speech, after the horrific attack.

Sam Kanu(image credit: keywordpicture.com)

Though, there are players like Mexican midfielder Juan Carlos Silva (who escaped after getting shot on his buttocks by a druglord) and Cabanas, who have managed to hold on to their precious lives, after incurring the wrath of the so called ‘football loving ganglords’, others like Escobar and Kanu were not so lucky.

Though, football was and always will remain as the ‘beautiful game’, fans (and ganglords) must remember that there is more to life than just playing and winning a game of football.

Else, like Cabanas and Escobar’s cases show, football can definitely become the difference between life and death!

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