- Associated Press - Monday, March 19, 2012

LONDON (AP) - Bolton says player Fabrice Muamba is able to recognize his family and respond to questions two days after collapsing during a match from cardiac arrest.

The Premier League club said Monday in a statement that the 23-year-old midfielder remained in intensive care but was “now able to breathe independently without the aid of a ventilator.”

The statement adds that he “has also been able to recognize family members and respond to questions appropriately.”

Muamba’s friend, Curtis Codrington, says the family told him the player was speaking “minimal words in English and French, which is better than nothing.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) _ Fabrice Muamba began showing signs of improvement Monday when his heart started beating without the help of medication, two days after the Bolton midfielder collapsed during a match from cardiac arrest.

The hospital emphasized that he remained in critical condition in intensive care with an uncertain long-term prognosis. A friend of Muamba said he was told by the family that the player had started talking again.

Curtis Codrington told The Associated Press the family reported that Muamba was speaking “minimal words in English and French, which is better than nothing.”

The 23-year-old Muamba collapsed on the field just before halftime in the FA Cup match at Tottenham on Saturday, and his heart started beating on its own again only when he arrived at a London hospital’s heart attack unit that night.

Muamba has been in critical condition since Saturday.

“He is showing small signs of improvement,” a joint statement from Bolton and the hospital said. “His heart is now beating without the help of medication and he is also moving his arms and his legs.

“However, his long-term prognosis will remain unclear for some time. He is still critically ill and will continue to be closely monitored and treated by staff in the London Chest Hospital’s intensive care unit.”

The player’s fiancee has been issuing pleas on Twitter for the health of Muamba, who proposed on Valentine’s Day. The couple has a 3 year-old son, Joshua.

“Fabrice WILL!! Pull through because God is good,” Shauna Muamba tweeted. “Love u so much fmuamba keep strong we’re praying for u honey … where there is life there is hope.”

Bolton manager Owen Coyle said the former England under-21 player was putting up a “brave fight,” adding that the club had been inundated with messages of support, including from David Beckham.

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