IT is two years to the day that Bolton Wanderers star Fabrice Muamba’s heart stopped for 78 minutes after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during an FA Cup tie at White Hart Lane.
Fans watched in horror as the midfield ace received lengthy treatment on the pitch from medics — including a cardiologist who was in the stands — before he was taken to the London Chest Hospital.
Wanderers club chaplain, Phil Mason, went down to London and to the player’s bedside.
He said: “The whole journey down I was imagining the worst and as soon as I got into the room it was clear that his life was hanging in the balance.
“I read him his favourite psalm from the Bible and as I left I just didn’t know what would happen next.”
Mr Mason said he has been delighted to witness Fabrice’s miraculous recovery over the past two years and fondly recalls the emotion on display at the Reebok when he returned ahead of a fixture in May, 2012.
He said: “Fabrice actually came into my office that day, he was very emotional and totally overwhelmed with the outpouring of support he had received.”
Two years on, and although he has been forced to retire from football, Fabrice is alive and well and fans at this weekend’s match against Brighton reflected on their memories from that dramatic evening.
Jake Vickers, aged 17, was at the game at White Hart Lane.
He said: “I was there and it was really horrible. It is the quietest I have ever heard a football stadium, everyone was just in stunned silence.
“I still get a chill up my spine every time I see Fabrice, thinking about that night — but I am delighted that he has recovered.”
Fellow Whites fan, Simon Nightingale, aged 41, from Ainsworth was watching the match in a pub.
He said: “You could tell straight away from the reaction of the players that something was not right. I remember the pub falling silent, which doesn’t happen often — I think everyone was expecting the worst.
To see Fabrice now, not only alive and well but being an ambassador and trying to get the message out there about using defibrillators is really positive.”
Since the incident, Fabrice and his wife Shauna have tied the knot and they have also celebrated the birth of their second son, Matthew Josiah.
Fabrice is now studying journalism at Staffordshire University.
Chief football writer Marc Iles was covering the game for The Bolton News and also co-commentating on BBC Radio Manchester with Phil Kinsella
MY abiding memory of the incident itself was the hushed silence that fell around the stadium when we realised just how serious things had become.
I remember turning to Phil live on air and saying: “God, they are giving him CPR... he’s got a son.”
There were waves of pure emotion from the crowd urging him on as the medical team fought to save him.
But once they had got Fabrice off the pitch it was bedlam. No one knew what to do.
I can still recall Gordon Strachan — a seasoned professional manager — standing there and staring at the pitch shaking his head. He’d gone completely vacant.
My phone went into meltdown as people wanted to know what was happening.
But I was already in the car and heading across London to Bethnal Green, where we knew the ambulance was heading.
The traffic was terrible but by the time I got to the London Chest Hospital, I was fearing the very worst.
One news outlet reported that he was in a stable condition but the word I was getting from the club was that it was much, much worse.
I got back home at 7am the next morning and my wife and boys were already up. To be honest, all I had wanted to do from the moment I left White Hart Lane was get back home.
Considering what I felt at that point, you can’t term Fab’s recovery as anything else but a miracle — you speak to him nowadays and it’s as if nothing really happened.
He’s had to give up football, which I know was a tough decision, but looking at what he has got — a great family, his son Joshua, a new baby and Shauna, who is now his wife — I know for sure he appreciates life that little bit more.