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My heart attack has made football safer for players

Ex-Arsenal man also believes the Gunners are on course for the Premier League title

Ex-Bolton and Arsenal player Fabrice Muamba has told William Hill’s Stripped podcast how the heart attack he suffered on the pitch back in 2012 has shaped football for the better and helped make stadiums safer for players.

Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during a televised FA Cup match between Bolton and Tottenham in the 2011/12 season, during which his heart stopped for 78 minutes, with the midfielder then being forced to retire a few months later.

Speaking on William Hill’s Stripped podcast, a series in which ex-footballers and celebrities are invited to take a trip down memory lane by revisiting their favourite shirts, Muamba said: “Prior to my accident, it was a different environment.

“Because of my accident and how televised it was, and how everyone knew about it, medical care of the players has drastically improved in terms of making sure every single club has the facilities and access so an ambulance can get on the pitch. Every club now has a paramedic next to the pitch.

“It has been almost 10 years since it happened. I am very grateful I had the best medical staff I could have wished for that day, an ambulance that had four doctors, and a cardiologist in the stand; everything was there for me. To get me from the pitch to the ambulance, to the hospital, the big man up there was looking out for me. Since the accident, so much has gone on to improve the playing environment, to look after players with heart conditions and improve the safety of all players.

“It couldn’t have happened in a better place because it happened on the pitch, I got the best medical help I could have had. Am I sad it happened? Of course, you ask why it has happened, but I am happy that I am still here. I can now do different things and spend more time with my kids. All in all, I am grateful to still be here, but I am sad that it took my career away from me.”

Touching on a similar event that saw Christian Eriksen collapse on the pitch at Euro 2020, Muamba praised the quick thinking of Eriksen’s Denmark teammates and the medical staff in the stadium on the day.

He said: “When it happened with Christian Eriksen, because of the medical care he had that day, by the time he left the pitch, he was already awake. A lot of lads know how to do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) now; it was the captain of the team (Simon Kjaer) by his side that was giving him CPR. I was so happy that he was able to make the recovery. Seeing it happen to someone else, you are hoping that it ends well.”

Arsenal winning the Premier League

When asked how he felt about his former club Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League this season, Muamba said: It is on my Christmas wish list; I hope it will happen. I am 90% sure that it will happen. If they beat Manchester City, then there is nobody touching Arsenal. The team is now very good, they don’t need to invest in January. The midfield are scoring, the striker is scoring, and the defence are scoring goals. They have one of the best keepers in the league, what more do you want?

“Pep (Guardiola) will be kicking himself. Selling Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus to them is like Arsenal selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United, and look what happened that year. They have been the best team in the league so far. Mikel Arteta is popular with the fans now; we weren’t sure if he was going to be the man, but now he looks like he is on top of it. They have done a job over everybody.”

Playing with his Gunners heroes

Starting his career with Arsenal, Muamba recalled his first experience of playing alongside the Gunners players he had looked up to from the academy.

He said: “It’s the most surreal experience because one minute you are watching them, and the next minute you are on the pitch with them, and they are calling your name and calling you Fab not Fabrice.

“I remember my first time training with the first team. It was like Christmas had come early. I was a first-year scholar, and you always go out before the first team. One day I was told I was training with them, and we went out a bit later. You are imagining how you will act around them and wonder if they know who you are. I walked into the dressing room, and the first person who helped me feel welcome was Ashley Cole.

“Thierry Henry and Ashley would look after the young players and make you feel at home. Thierry always looked after young players; he would sort you out. Back then, he was one of the top five players in the world, and he would get a lot of free stuff from his sponsors. Sometimes he would have a whole box of Nike gear or a PlayStation and say you can have it. Ashley came through the academy, so he always looked out for the young academy players. He even put on our Christmas do and made sure it was good.”

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