Hardened sentiments – Borussia Dortmund bus attack

It seemed like a routine match day for a football team. They are ready to leave for one of the important matches in their football calendar – first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals at home. The team leave their hotel in the team bus and within few minutes – boom, an explosion. Three bombs detonated. Bus windows shattered, tires flattened.  We get the news one player on the team is injured and so is the police escort on the bike accompanying the team.  

News spread around fast, through media and social media. What followed after this is what I am trying to understand here. The fans of the two teams – Borussia Dortmund and Monaco shared wonderful camaraderie and came together in wake of this attack. The match was postponed till the next day and the away fans were offered accommodation by the home fans. Images of this camaraderie were to be found, where else, but on social media.  

However, there was some backlash too on social media. Some fan photos were labelled as attention seekers or cringeworthy. Some people called it overreaction to the incident. Why overreaction? Because there were no casualties. Because only one player was injured. And his injury was not too serious – just an an injury to his arm and wrist.  Even the injured player, Marc Batra’s post on his Instagram account evoked some negative sentiments like, rich footballers, spoiled, soft, etc. What is the big deal? It is only his arm and wrist.  

Yes, this is also the reaction we got on social media. One has to wonder have we become so immunized by bomb blasts/terrorist attacks all around that the attack on the Borussia Dortmund football team bus didn’t deserve any sympathy/empathy? It appears that now for us to react to any tragedy is by means of how many lives are lost in such attacks. If there are no casualties, it does not really matter. In a sad way, had this been any other bus, in any other part of the world (read – developing nations) then probably it would not have received much attention.

So the basic answer to my earlier question – yes, we have been immunized. But probably our reaction would be different if we or those close to us are caught in such a situation. Perhaps then we would be able to fully grasp and understand the condition of those players on the bus that evening in Dortmund. That the players were shell shocked after the incident would be an understatement. Because, yes,

They are footballers. They are rich. They are privileged.  

Now, how about if we start from the very basic.  

They are human beings. They are mortal beings. They have loved ones.

So, if we look at the very basic elements, they are not any different to us.  Rich, yes, privileged, yes. But they are first and foremost human beings. Just like us, they too are mortals.  

There is no denying to the horror we see around us in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. We cannot imagine how people survive in those hostile conditions. However, it is not about comparing this incident to the people living in those environments. It is about showing empathy. It is about what could have been in the Borussia Dortmund case…

It also shows how we react to such incidents. The show must go on. Get on with life. Such attacks can happen anywhere, anytime in the world.  We are not cowards, we should not bow down to those terrorists. We have to continue living the way we have been. All this bravado is nice. And yes, life has to go on.  But is it too hard to even pause for a bit, to take time to process, to come to terms with reality, to get over the shock, and when lives are lost, to take time to grieve?

Also, what would are the wider implications of this incident? Police protection was provided but it was not able to prevent the attack. With active social media accounts all sport teams keep their fans updated on teams’ schedule and activities. Will this make them ponder to be a bit discreet about some of their activities? After the attack the location of the Borussia Dortmund team members was kept hidden. I recollect the friendly match between Germany and France in Paris on that fateful evening in November 2015.  DFB (Germany) team’s social media account mentioned about the team’s whereabouts and that tweet was deleted immediately.  

It may not happen instantly, but teams may start to be a bit discreet about their activities if, god forbid, security issues become more threatening in the future. And as for dealing with terrorist attacks, even if it looks less tragic from far off, let us at least be sensitive to those who are caught in such unfortunate attacks.  Let us give them time and space to deal with it.