Muamba started his career with Arsenal as an academy prospect and received high plaudits for his attitude towards succeeding in the sport. His ability and work rate earnt him a loan move to Birmingham City alongside Nicklas Bendtner and Seb Larsson. During his spell at the club he impressed then manager Steve Bruce so much that Muamba was signed up on a permanent contract with the Blues.
During his time at Birmingham City, his performances gained the attentions of the Under 21 squad manager Stuart Pearce, a man whose name is synonymous for his work rate, who was impressed by Muamba. Selection for the under 21’s was yet another step along Muamba’s career path that had also seen him represent England at Under 16, 17, 18 and 19 levels previously.
Birmingham’s relegation in 2008 saw the club have to offload their top players and Bolton Wanderers snapped up Muamba for a price around the £5 million mark. So at 20 years of age Muamba had gained the experience of playing in the Premier League and commanded such a fee, an extremely impressive feat.
He soon became a fan favourite at the Reebok stadium where despite the clubs struggles to push on, Muamba excelled in a midfield ready to battle and put their bodies on the line for the Bolton cause.
On the 17th March 2012 disaster struck for the former Arsenal trainee during the afore-mentioned 4th Round FA Cup tie at White Hart Lane.
As somebody who was at the game, I can tell you now that I have not experienced such an eerie and spine-tingling atmosphere during a football match as I did that day when Fabrice collapsed in the centre circle. Often fans can be unforgiving, but all of the White Hart Lane faithful were silenced as the horror of the situation began to unravel itself. As it later came to be reported, Muamba had suffered a cardiac arrest.
That Fabrice Muamba is still here today is a testament to the rapid response of the Bolton and Tottenham medical teams and a certain Dr Andrew Deaner, a Spurs fan simply there to enjoy a game of football. Noticing the danger, Cardiologist Deaner ran out onto the pitch and assisted in stabilising Muamba.
During that point I noticed a chorus beginning to emerge from the stands. A simmering murmur that gradually began to build in decibels. “Fabrice Muamba” the fans began to sing, singing because they did not know what else to do. Tottenham fans singing the name of a former Arsenal man was unheard of, but this went beyond football. This was about a man, with a family and friends, fighting for his life and the football community was coming together to get behind and pray.
Days followed after the match with little to report other than Muamba remaining in a critical state, and the country came together, crossing their fingers that the plucky midfield man would fight through. Four days into his hospitalisation fans finally got the news that Muamba was out of the worst of it and on his way to recovery, albeit no full recovery date had been set. Fans across the country breathed a sigh of relief.
Pictures later emerged of Muamba smiling and conscious, full of disbelief at the country’s reaction to getting behind him. The smile warmed the hearts of all those touched by the upsetting events at the Lane that day.
Although many predicted that it would mean the end of Muamba’s promising career, many secretly hoped it wasn’t and that the youngster would be able to step back onto the pitch and fulfil the talent he had been graced with. Fabrice clearly felt the same and has described the decision to quit football as devastating, a sentiment I’m sure that many will agree with.
This news will sadden many that such a young man can be stopped before he’d even reached the peak of his career, but Muamba is a fortunate man to still be with us, and that had to be taken into consideration. The call is absolutely correct to help him with living his life in good health.
Whatever Muamba chooses to do next, whether he turns his hand to punditry, coaching or other, he will forever be remembered amongst football fans for his spirit and strength. It doesn’t matter who you support, on this day we celebrate the career of Fabrice Muamba and wish him the best for the future.
image: © Crystian Cruz