Thursday 21 November 2013
Fabrice Muamba is someone who knows all too well the important work that many low-profile people at clubs in the Barclays Premier League carry out.
"We want to highlight the importance of the good work done by certain individuals who make up the Barclays Premier League and give them the praise they deserve"
In March last year, the midfielder suffered a cardiac arrest while playing an FA Cup tie for Bolton Wanderers away to Tottenham Hotspur. The medical staff of both clubs were quick to get on the pitch to treat the player, whose heart stopped for 76 minutes, and helped to keep him alive.
So the 25-year-old, who has since retired from football, is the ideal person to help judge a new award launched by Barclays to recognise outstanding achievements made by players, managers and lesser-known club staff members in the Barclays Premier League.
"We want to highlight the importance of the good work done by certain individuals who make up the Barclays Premier League and try to give them the merit and praise that they deserve," Muamba, a Barclays ambassador, told premierleague.com.
The Barclays Merit Award will comprise three categories: Performance Milestone, Spirit of the Game and Unsung Club Hero. The last category will be nominated for by the 20 Barclays Premier League clubs and other stakeholders, while Opta will use statistical data to identify the outstanding performance milestones throughout the season. Muamba will also sit on the selection panel to help decide upon the winners.
"I have to give a special mention to what they did for me when everything went pear-shaped for me at White Hart Lane and how well the Bolton and Spurs medical staff got together," said Muamba, who made 167 Barclays Premier League appearances for Birmingham City and Bolton. "They did a great job to assist me and make sure I am still here talking to you today."
"There are all sorts of people who do a lot of great work behind the scenes at football clubs that does not receive the attention of the press"
But Muamba explained that many people are eligible for the Unsung Hero award, such as long-serving or hardworking staff members and volunteers, who can be nominated in the category by the Barclays Premier League clubs for whom they work.
"There are all sorts of people who do a lot of great work behind the scenes at football clubs that does not receive the attention of the press," he said. "The tea ladies, the catering staff, the people who clean the changing rooms or do the laundry. All these people deserve a mention and Barclays want to recognise these people with this award to show we appreciate what they do within the Premier League."
The other two categories for the award are designed to reward managers or players who have achieved sporting milestones or been involved in significant moments of sportsmanship. Muamba cited Ryan Giggs and Kevin Phillips as two players likely to come under consideration for the former award category, with the Manchester United midfielder's "self-discipline, adaptability and ability to stay injury-free" key reasons for his longevity in the game.
"One of the things Giggs has turned to is yoga, which has helped him to stay injury free," Muamba said. "That is a major reason why he has had such a long, successful career at Manchester United. Also, the older he has become the more he has had to change his game and adapt. He has gone from being a flying winger to a versatile all-round midfielder who can play in many different positions. He has been able to adapt, which you need to do in order to survive for so long."
"That's exactly what the Barclays Premier League is about; individuals who go out of their way to help a fellow professional"
The Spirit of the Game category has been created to recognise the importance to the Barclays Premier League of sportsmanlike conduct, and Muamba recalls the occasion when the West Ham United forward Paolo Di Canio was playing against Everton in 2000 and caught the ball to stop play for the stricken Everton goalkeeper to receive treatment when he easily could have scored.
"When you are on that pitch you want to win, so you try to win every challenge and every tackle, but you have to understand that at the end of the day it’s just a game of football," said Muamba. "Di Canio stopped play when his team were in a promising attacking position, because he saw a player from the other side was down injured and he decided to try and help him.
"That's exactly what the Barclays Premier League is about and what this award is about; individuals who go out of their way to help a fellow professional, show sympathy and sportsmanship and demonstrate that players can remain united within the game even if they are on opposing sides."