- Associated Press - Friday, March 23, 2012

LONDON (AP) - Fabrice Muamba still faces “a long period of recovery” after his on-field cardiac arrest despite a surprisingly strong improvement since his collapse, his family said Friday.

Muamba’s father and fiancee released a statement thanking fans, soccer players and medical staff for their support. Muamba collapsed last Saturday just before halftime of Bolton’s FA Cup quarterfinal at Tottenham.

The former England under-21 international remains in intensive care at London Chest Hospital. Medics worked on him for 78 minutes to get his heart beating on its own. On Monday, he was talking to doctors.

“Even though Fabrice has made great progress over the last couple of days, he is still in intensive care and still has a long period of recovery ahead,” Marcel Muamba and Shauna Magunda said. “He has asked that you please keep him in your prayers.”


Players across Europe have worn T-shirts expressing their support for Muamba, which read “Get Well Soon Fabrice.”

European champion Barcelona is among the clubs making the gesture, while FIFA President Sepp Blatter has spoken with Bolton’s chairman and asked to be kept informed of Muamba’s progress.

“We have been overwhelmed by all the kind messages we have received,” the statement said. “The support we have had from the fans _ not just from Bolton but football supporters around the world _ has given us so much strength.

“We have been particularly touched by the support from the football community globally.”

Medics tried to revive Muamba for 48 minutes before he arrived at the east London hospital. Bolton team doctor Jonathan Tobin said it took another 30 minutes, after 15 shocks from a defibrillator, before the player’s heart started beating again on its own.

The cause of the cardiac arrest has not been discovered. Doctors said that Muamba had undergone a routine screening for heart defects in August. He was checked again Sunday, with the test producing a normal result.