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Anorak | RIP Chris Ralph, the man we never knew but whom football will mourn

RIP Chris Ralph, the man we never knew but whom football will mourn

by | 1st, April 2012

RIP Chris Ralph, the 47-year-old footballer who collapsed during a football match between Chagford and Topsham Town. Mr Ralph fell ill playing for Chagford in the Devon Veterans’ County Cup final at Newton Abbot.

Mr Ralph, of Budleigh Salterton, Devon, died in Torbay Hospital.

The game was abandoned.

And so begins the grim procession of orchestrated grief. Any sane human being would love Mr Ralph to be alive. He was a family man who will be much missed. He died suddenly. His family would have had little or not time to prepare for his passing. That is cruel. The game being abandoned was the correct thing to do. But only who those knew Mr Ralph in life can feel pain at his passing. However, next weekend the league wants clubs to hold a minute’s silence. The story, at the time of writing, is the second most read item on the BBC News.

What attracted so many people to read of a man’s death? Was it the football element that made readers look? The BBC headline says:

Footballer dies after collapsing

The BBC understands the power of football and how to get an audience.

Football is about escaping the pains of life and relaxing. But modern football is so bloody serious. If it’s not some pathetic politician using football to showcase their anti-racism credentials, to bind the nation against the white working class mob who must be controlled lest they race riot, it’s fans being invited to be silent for a minute or applaud for the full 60 seconds.

It’s utterly depressing, like seeing the bunch of flowers tied to a tree where a life was taken in a road traffic accident or reading the bench’s inscription to the dead who enjoyed the view; a view once uplifting now tainted by death and loneliness.

On Twitter, a Matthew Collins ‏ @mdcollins1984 notes:

Footballer dies after collapsing. Any reason why ChrisRalph isn’t trending?

Best to invert the question: why should he be? Is trending on twitter the ultimate accolade? Why would strangers feel a need to mourn a man they never knew?

To be clear: we wish Mr Ralph had not died. At just 47 he should still be in the land of the living. His death at a too young age is awful.

But why should anyone be grieved for by those who never knew them? Why are strangers expected to mark a man’s passing? When did an orchestrated minute’s silence – once the preserve of the fallen millions in wars on one day every year – become the norm for private figures? And why doesn’t everyone get a minute’s silence – be quiet in the the factory, the office and the hospital for those who have died. Football has become a place where you need to wear your regulated morals. A minute’s silence is an obligation. Who wants to feel obliged to grieve?

On the same day that Mr Ralph died, former Millwall player Barry Kitchener died; one day later – March 31 – Roger Evans (58), a referee with the Central Midlands Football League, died shortly after a match between South Normanton Reserves and Borrowash Victoria Reserves; on March 30, the goalkeeper trainer at football club Pescara, Franco Mancini, died aged 43;  today it was announced that former FAI president Louis Kilcoyne had died; and so on.

On April 1, a runner died after collapsing at the finishing line of the Reading Half Marathon. The line was in the Madejski Stadium, where Reading FC play.

Do they all trend on twitter? Do BBC readers seek out those stories? Do they all get a minute’s silence or the modern minute’s applause, a development rooted in a perceived need to drown out any pariah who dares break the silence with an unpleasant chant. Would they have wanted one?



Posted: 1st, April 2012 | In: Sports Comments (47) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink