British football fans were shocked earlier this month when Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch during a match against Tottenham Hotspur on 17 March. The 23-year-old player had suffered a massive cardiac arrest and, incredibly, his heart stopped for 78 minutes as emergency medical teams struggled to stabilise his condition.
While much of the country was in shock, football fans of all teams united in support for the critically ill player, with many supporters from rival teams sending ‘get well’ messages, flowers, gifts and other symbols of their hope for his recovery. Social networks quickly filled up with messages expressing disbelief, but also offering support, with the Twitter hashtags #Pray4Muamba and #PrayForMuamba gaining enormous momentum as fans awaited news about the player’s collapse.
Fans have united in support for the ill player. Image via BBC Sport
But not everyone was sympathetic to Muamba’s condition. Swansea University student Liam Stacey chose to reflect on events by posting offensive comments on Twitter about the footballer. The first of his tweets read: “LOL. F*** Muamba. He’s dead!!!”, while further comments featured various racial slurs.
The tweets were quickly spotted by other users, who swiftly reported them to police forces across the United Kingdom. Perhaps recognising the backlash against him, Stacey attempted to delete his Twitter account - @liamstacey9, which has since been removed – but was subsequently arrested before he was able to do so.
Liam Stacey, 21, in the light-coloured jacket. Image via Wales News Service
Stacey initially attempted to deny any knowledge of the tweets, telling police that his Twitter account had been hacked. However, he later confessed that he had been drinking earlier in the day, and was drunk when he posted the comments to Twitter, telling police: “I was at the bar when I heard what had happened to Muamba. I don’t know why I posted it. I’m not racist and some of my friends are from different cultural backgrounds.”
This morning, BBC News reported that Stacey has been jailed for 56 days for a racially-aggravated public order offence.
Fabrice Muamba, meanwhile, continues to recover in hospital, where he is currently in a “serious, but stable” condition. His Bolton team-mates will tonight replay the match against Tottenham that was suspended when he collapsed ten days ago.