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The Pain of Loss by Harry Arter

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The Pain of Loss by Harry Arter

Post  Hieronymus on 2016-01-29, 5:21 pm

I know I am a bit emotional today, being full of cold and feeling very jetlagged, having just returned home after 3 weeks in the sun with my daughter and grandson, but this article has just made me weep buckets. Footballers get a lot of stick for 'not caring' and not having to cope with many of the realities of life that the rest of us face on a daily basis, but this shows that sometimes the real world comes crashing down cruelly on them, just as much as any of us.  My heart goes out to Harry and Rachel for their devastating loss. I hope they come to terms with their grief, although I am sure they will never, ever forget their little girl. 


Harry Arter: ‘Every single game now I go out to play for her’

The Bournemouth midfielder speaks publicly for the first time about the devastation he and his fiancee Rachel suffered after the loss of their daughter and how it is the driving force behind his every performance
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[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Harry Arter says he was overwhelmed by the support he has received. ‘There were people from all across the world sending me messages – I must have received over 3,000 across that Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I swear I read every single one of them.’ Photograph: James Marsh/BPI for the Guardian
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@StuartJamesGNM
Friday 29 January 2016 12.00 GMT


It was a couple of minutes before kick-off against Manchester United and the [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] players had come together for their pre-match huddle. The same bubbly character always delivers the pep-talk – a few lines to get the adrenaline pumping – yet this time Harry Arter could tell his team-mates were wondering whether he would be able to get the words out. Only two days earlier his fiancee, Rachel, had given birth to their stillborn daughter.
“I did manage to do the speech and I actually kept it together,” Arter says. “I used what happened to say to the lads: ‘Listen, I’ve experienced how short a life can be, what’s happened to my little baby could happen to someone in this team, so make sure you give everything today because these football moments are not going to last forever, and what I’ve learned from this experience is that life can end at any second.’”

Arter’s words were as inspirational as his performance. [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] and the Republic of Ireland international was named man of the match on an evening that stirred the emotions. If there is one image that sticks in the mind from that game against United in December it is the poignant moment five minutes from time when Arter, with tears in his eyes, waited to go back on to the pitch after receiving treatment, and Eddie Howe, Bournemouth’s manager, wrapped his arms around him like a father would hold on to his son.

Looking back, Arter wonders how on earth he played that day, although it transpires the 26-year-old was in a much darker place the following week, when he “lost it” and walked out of the team hotel at midnight. There have been so many tears in so many places and it is deeply moving listening to Arter talk about their devastating sense of loss, in particular that awful moment on the Wednesday evening when Rachel, who was 39 weeks pregnant at the time, learned Renee’s heart had stopped beating.

Arter had just popped out to the car to collect Rachel’s overnight bag and returned to the hospital to find his partner sobbing. “That was the worst night of my life,” he says. “To this day I don’t know how Rachel, physically and emotionally, dealt with it. She stayed there the whole night knowing she was still going to have to give birth naturally to our baby that hadn’t made it. And for her to do that … it’s the most respect I’ll ever have for anyone. To have to do that, and the way she dealt with it, was unbelievable and made me have an unconditional love for her.”
Seven weeks on and everything still feels raw, their grief and pain compounded by the fact the cause of Renee’s death remains unknown. Arter and Rachel have some concerns about the care they received in the final stages of the pregnancy but will reserve judgment until the results of the postmortem.
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Harry Arter with Bournemouth’s manager, Eddie Howe, after he started against Manchester United within days of Renee’s death. ‘Building up to the game I was in a state and, looking back now, I don’t know how I played,’ he says. Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

It has been such a traumatic time and one of the points Arter would like to get across in this interview – which he requested to do so he can talk about what happened and publicly draw a line under his daughter’s passing at the same time – is just how touched he was by the messages of condolence.
“I was so overwhelmed with the amount of support I got from people I know would care but I wouldn’t expect to make a call,” he says. “Martin O’Neill called me, Roy Keane was with him and sent his best wishes. People I play with for Ireland that I’m not close to at all were texting me. There were people from all across the world sending me messages – I must have received over 3,000 across that Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I swear I read every single one and Rachel probably read most of them as well.”

At Bournemouth, where Arter is such a popular, larger-than-life figure, the staff and players have helped in any way they can. Howe, Arter says, has been “unbelievable”. Richard Hughes, the head of recruitment and one of Arter’s closest friends, is always there for him, and his team-mates have shown their support on and off the pitch.

Arter will not forget, for example, how Simon Francis and Charlie Daniels, together with Hughes’s girlfriend, came to his house on the Thursday afternoon, while Rachel was still recovering in hospital, to help take down and pack away the nursery furniture to make life that little bit more bearable at home.
The journey back from hospital later that evening, Arter says, was horrendous. “It’s a feeling I cannot describe. It was horrible. It was just tears constantly flowing. The days afterwards – and I said this to Rachel – honestly felt like years. They were the longest days of my life. It was just hard seeing Rachel so upset. All I kept thinking to myself was: ‘If there was one thing I could do to make her not feel the way I’m feeling.’ And obviously she was probably feeling 10 times worse.”

Although Arter says he “cannot remember the conversation one bit”, at some point that Thursday evening – and with Rachel’s encouragement – he telephoned Howe to tell him he would report for training the next morning. Arter is close to Howe, who signed him from Woking for £4,000 in 2010, and he knew it was going to be emotional for both of them when he knocked on the manager’s door before training to talk things through face to face.
“I went to see him in the office on the Friday before the lads got in,” Arter says. “I explained to him what happened – not like how I’m explaining it to you now; I was upset and crying. I didn’t make eye contact but I’m sure he was upset. And then I said: ‘I’m training today and playing tomorrow if you want to select me. I want to play so bad.’”
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Harry Arter has more respect for his fiancee than for anyone else in the world. ‘To this day I don’t know how Rachel, physically and emotionally, dealt with it,’ he says. Photograph: James Marsh/BPI for the Guardian[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

Although Arter insisted to Howe he was mentally up to playing, he now accepts he was in a bad way before the match. At one point he was worried whether he would make it across the car park and as far as the home dressing room, never mind on to the pitch.
“Rachel dropped me at the ground. She wanted to do that – there was obviously no way she was coming to the match,” Arter says. “I remember I was just about to get out of the car and then I had to sit back in my seat. I was just sobbing. I thought I physically couldn’t walk past all the people. Rachel then got upset as well but said: ‘Come on, you can do it, be strong.’ I took a few deep breaths and I remember walking past the crowds. I was just about to go into the changing room and thought as soon as I got through the door I’d start crying, so I backed off and walked to the toilet and cried.
“Building up to the game I was in a state and, looking back now, I don’t know how I played. But after I got my tears out I did feel a sense I could be myself again. Then the manager organised for Andy, the chaplain, to come in just before we got changed. Andy said a few words and I couldn’t look at anyone, because there were tears streaming down my face. I’d put money on it there were quite a few lads crying as well. But it was a really touching speech from Andy and it made me feel like everyone was in this with me.”

The news that Arter and Rachel had lost their daughter was not made public until shortly before kick-off, when Bournemouth announced their players would be wearing black armbands. “I thought if I was going to play I had to let people know,” Arter says. “Because if they saw me breaking down on the pitch – and there was a worry in my head that could happen – it would explain a few things rather than me having to explain it afterwards.”
As it happens, Arter was fine once the match started, totally immersed in playing his part in a famous Bournemouth victory and able to hold everything together until a late yellow card tipped him over the edge and led to Howe replacing him. “I remember having a moment then, all the emotions just flooded in and I felt that I was going to cry over what the referee was saying to me. It was strange, it obviously wasn’t what the ref was saying, but any negative emotion towards me would have just sparked it.”

After receiving a standing ovation from his team-mates when he got back into the dressing room, Arter agreed to go to the sponsors’ lounge to collect his man of the match award, which seems remarkable in the circumstances. Later that evening he texted Howe, who had publicly praised him for showing such dignity, to “thank him for giving me the opportunity to play because some managers may not have done that”.
With family and friends rallying around and all those messages of condolence to comfort them, Arter and Rachel got through the next few days. Yet from the Wednesday onwards, when they had some time at home alone, Arter says the “realisation of what had happened” started to hit them. “I remember thinking then: ‘I do not care one little bit about playing.’”

It was such an alien thought for someone who is so passionate about football and, perhaps not surprisingly, led to problems a couple of days later. Bournemouth were away at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday 19 December and travelled the night before to stay in a hotel in Birmingham, where Arter broke down after everything became too much for him. “It was just before Christmas, I remember going down to reception and everyone was happy. Any family that I saw, or any baby that I saw, I was just thinking: ‘I wish that was me.’ It got to about 12 o’clock and I was sitting in my room and I just lost it. I had to get out of the hotel. “Richard Hughes is probably one of my best friends, not just in football but in life, and I called him, not realising he was in the hotel. He came outside and I was just sobbing. We had a long chat, which made me feel better. But on Saturday, when we were driving to the game, I had this weird flat feeling that I’ve never had when I’ve played football before. That must have been grief taking over, that was when it kicked in for me.”
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Harry Arter, right, here celebrating a goal against West Ham, is grateful for his team-mates’ support. He says he told them before the Manchester United game: ‘Make sure you give everything today … What I’ve learned from this experience is that life can end at any second.’ Photograph: Mark Kerton/ActionPlus/Corbis

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] but for Arter, who is normally such an effervescent presence on the pitch – the sort of player who makes a team tick and inspires others – it felt as though the game was going on around him. “I remember telling Rachel and my family the feeling I had during that West Brom game and they all said I couldn’t have that, and that the last thing my little girl would have wanted to see was me not doing well.”
Arter is so grateful for the love and support of those closest to him. His mum and dad, together with his three brothers, Benji, Daniel and Paddy, were at the United match and Arter knows how upsetting it would have been for them to see him so emotional near the end. He also stresses how much Carly, his sister, and Scott Parker, her husband, along with Rachel’s parents, Fiona and Paul, have helped him through a dreadful experience.
All the while Arter has also needed to show incredible courage. “I never consider myself a strong person,” he says. “My girlfriend would probably say the same about her. But I don’t think anyone knows the strength of themselves until something like this happens.”
Renee’s funeral took place on New Year’s Eve in a private ceremony attended only by the two of them. Arter says the date was chosen for a reason because they “felt it was right to finish 2015 that way, rather than take what’s happened into 2016”.

Although Renee will never be far from their thoughts and always in their hearts, they know life has to go on. In Arter’s case that means playing the game he loves, continuing a journey that has [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], and setting foot on the pitch with greater motivation than ever before. “Hand on heart, as soon as the Man United game started my main focus was putting in a performance,” he says. “The only game where mentally I did not feel in the right place was West Brom. But that was a massive wake-up call for me. There was no way I was going to let this define my football. “Every single game now I go out – and this is the truth – to play for her. I think I need to do her proud and play as well as I physically can, so that if she’s watching she’ll be happy.”

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Re: The Pain of Loss by Harry Arter

Post  cyprussyd on 2016-02-03, 11:54 am

We are all guilty at times for thinking of footballers as over paid prima donnas who dont live in the real world.

Without doubt they lead a privileged life at premier level and are lucky but the real world still touches them and they are in the end human beings, just like us.

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