There’s no rollercoaster in the world that could provide an adequate metaphor for the story of Fabrice Muamba over recent days. Bolton player Muamba (23) collapsed during Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Tottenham and remains in intensive care. After suffering cardiac arrest, there was an air of resignation to the coverage that suggested it was only a matter of time before the worst fears were confirmed.
Thankfully, the news didn’t come and with every scrolling Sky Sports News ticker the optimism grew ever so slightly. There was confirmation that he was still “fighting for his life.” Not ideal, but at least fighting is better than losing the battle entirely. Then news of a more stable condition arrived. It was far from a recovery, but it will have to do. The time passed and there were no hasty retractions of optimistic reports. In a world of instant and often unverified breaking news, it was ill-advised to place too much faith in anyone one.
Then came something wholly unexpected. Not only were the optimistic reports not being reversed, but bit by bit, encouraging details were being added. There was talk of open eyes, recognition of family members and eventually a few words. In 1872, Victorian scientist, Francis Galton conducted a study to assess the power of prayer. With all the good vibes being sent the way of the Royal Family by the people of the United Kingdom, Galton reasoned that if prayer was to have an effect, then members of the monarchy should enjoy longer and healthier lives. They don’t, however, and the conclusion was prayer is essentially talking to yourself in a room. The outpouring of goodwill and the speed of Muamba’s recovery might have Galton reassessing his findings. Footballers and fans across the world communicated their best wishes via tweets, t-shirts and good old-fashioned home-made signs in the days since the incident and the positive news of Muamba’s progress has been warmly received by the football world and beyond.
The scale of the sensational convalescence was highlighted by Bolton’s club doctor, Jonathon Tobin as he made the remarkable admission that for well over an hour, Muamba was technically dead. The various medical staff spent the 48 minutes following the player’s collapse trying to resuscitate him and another thirty minutes in the hospital. “In effect, he was dead in that time,” said Tobin, not pulling any punches. Tobin also explained that Muamba spoke to him on Tuesday evening, mustering the small but massively significant words: “Hi doc.”
MLS-based Thierry Henry made a transatlantic trek to visit his former club-mate at the London chest hospital on Wednesday. His journey took him from Salt Lake City in the Rocky Mountains via New York and after spending some time with Muamba, he returned to the airport for a quick-fire return flight.
The doctor treating Fabrice Muamba said it was “far too early” to say why the player had a cardiac arrest. Dr Sam Mohiddin, who is treating Muamba at London Chest Hospital, could not say if Muamba would ever be able to play football again, adding: “I don’t think we can even begin to discuss that as it’s a question that requires all sorts of unknowns in its answering.”
However, it may be some time before Muamba completes a return to full health, and Mohiddin said: “Fabrice has continued to demonstrate positive signs of recovery and he has not only exceeded our expectations but also our hopes in the way he’s recovered. But this remains very early in what could be a lengthy recovery period.”
Bolton return to Premier League action tomorrow after Muamba’s family told the club they wanted them to go ahead and fulfil their fixtures. Tuesday’s game against Aston Villa was postponed, with no new date confirmed. Bolton’s FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham has been rescheduled for Tuesday 27 March at White Hart Lane
Born in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), former England Under-23 international Muamba moved to England in 1999 aged 11 as he father fought to escape civil war in their homeland.
The player, who has represented England at every level, from under 16 to 21, could not speak English at that point but went on however to earn 10 GCSEs as well as A-levels in French, maths and English.
TV interview with Fabrice Muamba recorded last year