Not that any of you care, but playing sports (okay basketball) all the way through college I had two major injuries, a torn ACL and a separation of cartilage from my knee that required microfracture surgery (two separate injuries, same knees, a few years apart). I only mention this because I want to make it abundantly clear that on a deep, personal level I feel for guys who suffer season-ending, catastrophic injuries because I’ve been there. I’ve done the hours of rehab alone, I’ve watched games from the sideline unable to help and I wish no one else ever had to go through that.
That said, I really don’t get the venom tossed Son Heung-Min’s way by certain aspects of the Everton fanbase. To that end, reading my colleague Matthew’s article about how Son doesn’t shouldn’t receive any sympathy (which you can read here) really disappointed me. I’m just not there.
To recap, Son had been on the wrong side of a forearm from Gomes in the lead-up to the horrific phase of play. He appeared miffed to have not gotten the call and went in for what looked to some fans like a revenge professional foul, likely to just keep Gomes from countering with the ball. (For the record, I think the notion of "revenge" is dramaticized- these sorts of tackles are very common). His challenge caught the Portuguese midfielder awkwardly, and he fell at a bad angle towards the onrushing Serge Aurier with his boot stuck in the turf. Unsightly scenes ensued with players, staff and fans nauseated by what they saw.
Blues captain Seamus Coleman, on the bench, was one of the first players to go over and console the Everton man writhing on the ground, along with Cenk Tosun, Richarlison and a number of other players. And then, as referee Martin Atkinson changed his judgement from a yellow card to a straight red, Coleman also shared some words of sympathy for the Spurs player.
During his post-match comments, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino revealed that Coleman had come to the away side’s dressing room after the final whistle as well to sympathize with Son who had been inconsolable at the time.
This tackle wasn’t committed by Nigel De Jong, Sergio Ramos or Arturo Vidal or anyone with a reputation for dark arts or crunching tackles, it was the Tottenham Hotspur forward’s attempt at a tactical foul that went horribly awry. Marco Silva even defended the intent behind the tackle in post match comments. The tackle itself was one that happens in just about every football match you’ll ever watch and is a simple yellow in any situation other than one where a second defender collides and then injures the attacker immediately afterward. If that angers you, well, you’ve just learned about yourself that it takes you more than 48 hours to get over anger and return to seeing things rationally.
Want evidence of that? There is absolutely no one involved in Everton in any way shape or club more qualified to know how to react to a injury-inducing tackle than Seamus Coleman, and what did he do? The man went and sought out the mortified Son immediately after the incident and then again after the match to console him.
I remember clear as day the Wales vs Republic of Ireland match where Coleman’s leg was broken by the moronic incompetence of Neil Taylor. You knew that tackle was awful before contact was even made. I remember yelling at the TV as it happened because you just knew it was gonna go badly. Coleman wasn’t right for a year. I don’t know if you realize what he went through... going from being at his athletic best to not even being able to walk, to every single day having to do rehab activities that are ridiculously easy even for past-it, out-of-shape people like you and me but require every bit of his focus because some two-bit idiot broke his leg. If that guy can have some compassion for Son what the heck is our problem?
I’ve seen in the Toffeesphere (trademark pending) folks sharing images of Son before the Red Star game smiling and getting ready and wanting to show it as proof that the man wasn’t absolutely gutted over how that tackle turned out. Son lives and breathes football, of course he’s able to find his peace back in that environment.
Andre Gomes is our guy, and of course we back him 100% and we want to defend him against anyone who would seek to do him bodily harm. On an emotional level I totally understand the folks who want to lash out against Son, especially when his red card was successfully appealed in the aftermath. But here’s the thing, we don’t just owe compassion and understanding to guys who belong to our club (literal or figurative). Son didn’t even protest his red card, he was ripped apart by what happened, gutted. It was clearly an accident and I feel bad for Son the way I would feel bad for any human being who had an emotionally traumatic experience.
Unlike Gomes, I won’t be tracking Son’s well being for the next year, seeing how he’s recovering, but I don’t have to trash or attack Son to be on Gomes’ side. Coleman gets that, our manager gets that, and frankly we should too.