Fabrice Muamba backs St John Ambulance Celebrate Like a Hero campaign

The former Bolton midfielder speaks to Sky Sports about the night his life changed at White Hart Lane and why he is supporting a new campaign with Britain's leading first aid charity aimed at encouraging more football fans to become life savers

Fabrice Muamba
Image: Fabrice Muamba: Former Bolton midfielder is backing the Celebrate Like a Hero campaign

For 78 minutes, Fabrice Muamba's heart stopped beating.

For 78 minutes, doctors fought to save the life of the 23-year-old Bolton midfielder after he collapsed on the field at White Hart Lane during an FA Cup tie with Tottenham in March 2012.

For 78 minutes, in the words of Bolton’s club doctor Jonathan Tobin, Muamba was ‘in effect, dead at that time’.

But in a recovery which has been described as incredible, astonishing, unbelievable and miraculous - all adjectives which fail to truly do justice to the sequence of events – the former England Under-21 international defied the odds, with his cardiac rhythm restored after being shocked 15 times with a defibrillator.

Now Muamba is lending his support to the Celebrate Like a Hero first aid campaign created by St John Ambulance , which aims to encourage more football fans to learn the skills  which could be the difference between life and death. Which, regardless of the much-quoted words of Bill Shankly, is more important than football.

To put it bluntly, were it not for the medical assistance he received immediately after collapsing due to a sudden cardiac arrest, Muamba would not be here today to tell his story.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “When St John Ambulance approached me I felt it was right for me to raise my voice and hopefully people can follow the campaign as well.

“It is a life-changing situation and sudden cardiac arrest is becoming more common than ever, so it’s important that people can learn how to respond in an emergency.

In order to save somebody’s life, if you learn this, then you could be able to save somebody. It would help a lot of people if more people could learn to do that.
Fabrice Muamba

“It will help people to live after a cardiac arrest. In order to save somebody’s life, if you learn this, then you could be able to save somebody.

“It would help a lot of people if more people could learn to do that.”

Muamba was incredibly fortunate in that he was treated immediately by the club doctors of Bolton and Tottenham, with the duo joined by consultant cardiologist Andrew Deaner of the London Chest Hospital – where the player was taken by ambulance – who happened to be in the crowd.

Muamba, now 26, recalls nothing from the moment he fell to the turf in front of thousands of supporters at White Hart Lane and the millions more watching on television, with his recollections of that night still focused on his role as a footballer.

“I remember going to the game, travelling to the game, I was looking forward to giving a good showing,” he said. “I had not been in the side for a while so I felt like it was an opportunity for me to get back into the team and get some games under my belt.

Former footballer Fabrice Muamba shows emotion during a parade around the pitch at White Hart Lanen
Image: Muamba on an emotional return to White Hart Lane

“But all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I felt my chest, and after that I just passed out.

“I had an ambulance which was about 10 seconds away from where I was, I had doctors who were about 10 seconds away and there was a cardiologist in the stadium.

“All these people came together and did a great job. They took me to the best hospital I could wish for – the London Chest Hospital. All that played a major, major part in my recovery.

“If it had taken longer to get a doctor I might not even be here. I just had the right team around me and they did a great job.

“Whenever I see them I always say – thank-you, I am forever grateful for what they have done for me and my family.

“That episode has taught me so much. It’s just being able to say thank you to them and I’m very grateful for the help and support and what they did that night. “

There are many people who are still in hospital and many people around the world who haven’t had the privilege to see a day like we have.
Fabrice Muamba

The former Birmingham player, who started out as a trainee with Arsenal, was forced to retire from football on medical advice later in 2012. Despite the circumstances, he admits that was a difficult decision, but given his experience it is one which he is able to accept.

Muamba said: “It’s not been an easy transition, but it is about gradually moving away from it. I miss trying to stay in the game, but in a very different form to just trying to be a footballer again.

“I had great help from the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) and my former club Bolton. It is just about moving forward and concentrating on doing something different.

“Apart from stopping playing football, the change has not been that dramatic. Just being able to accept doing things differently, but there is not that much of a change.

Bolton fans show their support for Fabrice Muamba
Image: Bolton fans show their support for Fabrice Muamba

“Enjoy life and make the most of every single day that you have got.

“There are many people who are still in hospital and many people around the world who haven’t had the privilege to see a day like we have.

“It’s just about enjoying every single day and making the most of what is in front of me. Enjoy the moments with my wife, my kids and my mum and dad.”

Muamba’s current path has seen him employed within the education department of the PFA , working with young players and helping them to explore alternative careers should they be unable to achieve their targets within football, while he is also studying for a sports journalism degree.

Fenners and Merse are joined in the studio by Fabrice Muamba. The former Bolton midfielder recalls the moment his life changed when he collapsed during an

He added: “I’m interested in helping the young players, they don’t always get looked at when they fall out of the game and find it very difficult. I want to help the young players if they don’t make it in football, they can make it in something else.

“Football is not a guarantee that you will make it as a professional, and if you do, you’re not going to play for the rest of your life.

“It is about opening the eyes of the young players about one day it is going to come to an end, what you will face and having a strategy.”

For more information about Celebrate Like a Hero visit www.sja.org.uk/football

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