You probably missed this because it happened around 1 am EST. That’s why I missed it. Of course, most people also missed it because it happened in MLS (Major League Soccer). I’m a soccer fan, but truthfully not a big MLS guy either. But, trust me, this is worth it.
Steve Zakuani, a Seattle Sounders forward, was one of the better players in MLS, a rising star, in fact, until about 14 months ago, when a vicious tackle by Brian Mullan of the Colorado Rapids snapped his leg. (There’s video out there, but it’s brutal… I’m talking Joe Theissman brutal. So I’m not linking it here).
It was such a vicious injury that many, including Zakuani himself, wondered if he’d ever play again. His recovery was long and arduous and there were significant setbacks along the way.
Last night, the Seattle Sounders were hosting, you guessed it, the Colorado Rapids. With a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute, the Zakuani entered the game as a substitute. Now, the Sounders are known to have a raucous, enthusiastic home crowd (averaging 40,000 or more per game). But the stadium was reportedly shaking as that crowd welcomed back one of their favorite players. Pretty cool moment:
But it was not the only cool moment on the night.
That tackle last season obviously had a dramatic impact on Zakuani – but it also had a dramatic impact on Brian Mullan. To be fair, it was a rough and reckless tackle, but many fans vilified Mullan as if he had intentionally tried to ruin the career of a rising star.
Mullan was a respected veteran in the league and won championships with multiple teams. He became an overnight villain, and the incident apparently took an emotional toll on him as well.
|Mullan and Zakuani. Photo credit.|
So the second moment of note was when Zakuani approached Mullan and offered to swap jerseys. (Swapping jerseys is a common tradition after a soccer/football game as a gesture of appreciation between respected rivals). It was a show of class and sportsmanship that spoke volumes.
After the game, Zakuani said he had no problem with Mullan and had forgiven him: “I have said from day one that I do not have any issues with (Mullan),” Zakuani told the media after the match. “I forgave him a long time ago.”
A great comeback. Forgiveness. Class. Sportsmanship. We need more of this in sports, don’t you think?