Only A Game? - Just spare a thought for Youssef Suleiman

Youssef Suleiman.
Youssef Suleiman.

The next time you think about complaining about the price of a ticket to a football match spare a thought for Syrian footballer Youssef Suleiman. Twenty-six year-old Youssef had recently become a father but earlier this week his life was cruelly snatched away.

All things are relative; I understand the concept but when I hear of footballers in this part of the world moaning on about how they can’t live off £100,000 a week and then compare it to what footballers in places like Syria are having to endure I despair.

Youssef Suleiman's team-mates are in shock after the 26 year-old Syrian striker was killed when a mortar exploded near the team hotel this month.

Youssef Suleiman's team-mates are in shock after the 26 year-old Syrian striker was killed when a mortar exploded near the team hotel this month.

Youssef Suleiman was a 26 year-old striker who played for Al-Wathba SC in the Syrian Premier League.

On February 13, Youssef and his team mate were busy preparing for a training session in the team hotel.

According to reports from Syria, two mortars landed near the hotel. Several players, including Youssef, were injured.

Youssef died of his wounds in hospital later that day.

Suleiman’s team-mates said the mortars landed in front of the hotel.

“We were collecting our things about to head to the stadium when we heard the first explosion and the windows were blown off,” said Ali Ghosn, 20.

“Youssef was hit in the neck. We ran out to the corridor when the second explosion struck and I saw Youssef fall down bleeding from his neck.”

Had Youssef Suleiman lived into his eighties chances are you and I probably never would have heard of him. He may not have been as talented as say Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo but Youssef was a young man with a passion for football - he did not deserve his fate.

The diabolical attitude that oozes from some footballers in the Western world is sometimes disgusting.

If they’re not busy having sex with one another’s fiancées then they are competing with one another to see who can earn the most money, buy the fastest car or wear the biggest watch.

Quite frankly, the material side of football is so regular and consistent that some people have become almost conditioned to accept it as opposed to challenge it.

This disgusting outlook on life is not just confined to footballers. Western society has had it so good for so long that people soon start taking the most precious thing such as getting up to go out and do a day’s work, like Youssef Suleiman, for granted.

There’s a great Derry saying ‘we don’t know we are living’. I am not for one minute saying that everyone in Derry, Ireland and the West have it easy - that’s simply not the case at all. However, what I am saying is that the next time we think about complaining about something trivial we should think about what other people are having to endure in other parts of the world.

Youssef Suleiman’s career highlight was that he came on in the 85th minute of an Asian Champion’s League game in 2008. Chances are he never would have played in any of the top European leagues but despite the fact his country was in the middle of a civil war he still turned up for training - I wonder if the same situation was to occur at certain English clubs would all of their players remain as a loyal and as dedicated?

The situation in Syria is tragic to say the least. According to the United Nations over 70,000 people have lost their lives since the uprising began in March 2011 but still the country has tried to maintain some semblance of normality by staging football matches.

Football like many other forms of entertainments is a source of escapism but not for Syrians. Death and destruction visited its havoc on Syrian football when Youssef Suleiman lost his life.

Football fans (myself included) enjoy nothing more than heading out on a cold dark night to cheer on their respective teams but imagine what that experience would be like if a football match was constantly under threat of violence because of an ongoing civil war.

We’re quick to moan about the smallest thing in this part of the world when in actual fact what we should be doing is thinking about how lucky we are.

I am not claiming to have any great insight into the situation between the rebels and forces loyal to current Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad but one thing I am sure of is that there has been a great loss of life on both sides.

In terms of who is in the right and who is wrong, it’s certainly not for me to decide but one thing’s for sure, when I think of how lucky I am to be able to leave work at the end of the day and go and watch a football match I know how good my life is.

Youssef Suleiman will never get the chance to realise his dream of someday lining out for the Syrian national team and he will never get the chance to get to know his newly born child - these are aspirations that not just footballers take for granted in this part of the world.

If complaining about the price of a football ticket is the biggest problem any football fan experiences this season then they should count themselves very lucky indeed.

It could be a whole lot worse. Just spare a thought for Youssef Suleiman...