Life is a gift
It just doesn’t seem fair.
One minute Akeem Adams is relaxing in his Budapest apartment as I suppose he would have ahead of every weekend game with his Hungarian first division club Ferencvaros, the next he suffers a massive heart attack and is left clinging tenaciously onto life itself, all hopes and dreams of scaling the football summit having effectively disappeared.
Here he was, just a couple months into a new contract and no doubt seeing the opportunity in Eastern Europe as a first foot in the door to maybe greater and more glamorous opportunities elsewhere on that continent. His God-given talent as a left-footed defender had already taken him to places where few from Point Fortin, or anywhere else in this country, would have seen firsthand.
After wearing the national colours proudly at the Under-17 World Cup in South Korea and then at the Under-19 version in Egypt, the Hungarian experience was to be another chapter in his footballing education.
Surely the thought was to catch the eye of one of the big boys, maybe Guardiola at Bayern Munich or Mourinho at Chelsea, to be matched against a Messi or a Ronaldo and to come out with head held high and reputation immeasurably enhanced.
Yes, it’s the stuff of dreams, and that’s what I saw in one of the images of Akeem accompanying stories of his agonising struggle just to stay alive over the past fortnight: the bright, broad, contented beaming smile of a boy living a dream. We can all identify with that feeling, whether it was for a fleeting few seconds so many years ago before depressing reality came crashing down, whether we actually reached the pinnacle of our aspirations or are well on the way to getting there.
In this dreadlocked youthman from the oil belt we see our own children striving to accomplish great things far away from home in so many different fields of endeavour.
We give them room to spread their wings. We rejoice when they take off into spectacular flight and show those big people in big far-off places just what a little country like ours is capable of producing. Yet deep down inside there is the fear of our feisty fledglings being out there all on their own when, God forbid, something goes terribly wrong.
It must be massively consoling therefore to have his mother and brother at his bedside. Still, you wonder what thoughts are occupying his mind now that, as reported in the Hungarian media over the weekend, he has been made aware of the amputation of his left leg. Kept alive by a mechanical heart, requiring a heart transplant should he recover sufficiently to cope with the trauma of such a procedure and realising, amid the pain, the heavy sedation and medication, that just staying alive has replaced glory on the football pitch as a number one priority. How do you deal with something like that?
Playing the blame game, in the manner of Stern John’s foolish and speculative utterances last week, couldn’t possibly be helpful. At a time when emotions are running high in the countdown to yet another election this year, Akeem’s circumstances force at least some of us to focus on what’s really important. It’s a compelling narrative that exposes all the stage-managed flag-waving and outlandish promise-making and all the accusations about who has more criminals than whom as distressingly trite and superficial.
What it does tell us is that nothing in life (except death, of course) is guaranteed. We may speak loosely of someone having been destined to achieve greatness, of so-and-so being robbed of the chance to make it big.
But if we truly believe in a greater power than ourselves, a Supreme Being in whose hands our fates rest, then what has happened was meant to happen.
Still we ask why, even as we know there will never be a satisfactory answer.
All around us, near and far, there are tragedies and triumphs, events that are either catastrophic or remarkable that we merely gloss over as just another item on the day’s news...until it hits home, until we realise that Friday’s tremor is a reminder of the seismic upheaval that many of us blithely believe we will never have to endure, as if a tiny nation with so much bloodshed and widespread corruption are not fundamentally devastating and destabilising in themselves.
Even as we feel for our son of the soil out there in Budapest and pray for his recovery, we should still give thanks that in his 22 years he has already achieved much and, if blessed with more time, may be a beacon of inspiration on what it means to overcome adversity.
Akeem won’t know it, but today a female Spanish race car driver was to have launched her autobiography in Seville. Maria de Villota was found dead in her hotel room in that city on Friday morning. It is believed that serious head injuries sustained in a crash last year, which resulted in the loss of her right eye, contributed to her death.
And what is the title of that autobiography? “Life is a Gift”.
It certainly is, even if some of us may wonder on Akeem Adams’ behalf as to what sort of gift it is to have a footballing dream destroyed and to be left virtually at death’s door.
Ours is not to question why, or indeed how, but to believe that something beneficial or inspirational may yet come from this heartbreaking twist of fate.