Fabrice Muamba: retired Bolton midfielder's career in profile

Fabrice Muamba

Former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba, who has been forced to retire from football, says he knows he is lucky to be alive.

"While the news is devastating, I have much to be thankful for - I thank God that I am alive," he said when

Bolton's club doctor, Jonathan Tobin, said after Muamba's cardiac arrest during Bolton's FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham that the player had, in effect, been dead for 78 minutes. He received 15 shocks from a defibrillator as medics struggled to restart his heart.

His fight for life inspired tributes from British football and around the world. In Madrid, Real players were photographed before the match against Malaga in specially produced shirts carrying slogans wishing him a speedy recovery.

In Italy, Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo dedicated a win over Fiorentina to Muamba.

His case has been credited with raising awareness of heart problems in young people, with hospitals reporting a surge in requests for screenings after Muamba's collapse.

Although forced to call time on the career he loved, Muamba's life before he came to Britain arguably leaves him better prepared than most for handling adversity.

He was born in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1988.

When civil war broke out in 1996, Muamba's father Marcel, a political advisor in the government of ousted President Mobutu Sese Seko, became a target for rebels.

Marcel fled to England, and Fabrice - who was unable to speak English at the time - joined him in east London along with other family members in 1999.

"It was very tough - I saw the war, I saw people die. I grew up with it," Muamba recalled in 2008.

"It stopped us going out to play football because we were scared we would get killed. My dad had to come to England for us to survive and have a peaceful life."

An Arsenal fan when growing up in Africa, Muamba joined the Gunners' youth system in 2002 and, although he admitted in an interview with FourFourTwo that he "didn't take football seriously until the age of 16", he progressed through the ranks to make his first-team debut in a 2005 League Cup win at Sunderland.

With his opportunities limited by Arsenal's strength in midfield, he signed a season-long loan deal with Birmingham for the 2006-07 campaign and was signed full-time when the West Midlands club was promoted to the Premier League.

The club's fans voted him their Young Player of the Season and Blues manager Steve Bruce signed the player on a three-year deal, saying: "His performances and the way he drove the team on was unbelievable for a young kid."

Having turned down a call to represent the nation of his birth as a 19-year-old, Muamba made his England Under-21 debut in a friendly against Romania in August 2007, going on to win 33 caps.

He took A-levels in French and maths, and his answer in one interview that he "probably would have ended up being an accountant" if he was not playing football could yet prove prophetic.

Muamba was unable to stop Birmingham from making an immediate return to the Championship and in the summer of 2008 he moved to Bolton for £5m.

The midfielder, who played in every Premier League match of his first season with the Trotters, would also go on to be an integral part of Bolton's side in each of the next three seasons and signed a four-year contract extension in August 2010, with manager Owen Coyle calling him a "great young prospect".

How much of that potential Muamba could have fulfilled as a player will never be known, but few would doubt that the 24-year-old will still manage to make good use of a life he came so close to losing.

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