KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING
— Emergency medical support put in place by English football five years ago gave the Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba a ‘fighting chance’ after he suffered a cardiac arrest in the 41st minute of his club’s FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Improvements were sparked by in
juries to Chelsea’s Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini. After the two incidents in the match against Reading in October 2006 the then Chelsea manager José Mourinho reacted angrily to the way his goalkeepers were treated – specifically to the delays in hospitalising Cech, who had a fractured skull.
Mourinho had said: “My goalkeeper was in the dressing room for 30 minutes waiting for an ambulance. This is something English football has to think about. This is much more important than football.”
An official Chelsea complaint led to an FA and Premier League review, which introduced new measures from 2007, including the requirement for every game to have one ambulance on standby specifically for players and officials.
It is also compulsory for clubs to provide two paramedic stretcher-bearers, with a club doctor and physiotherapists on the team benches, as well as a qualified “crowd doctor” on standby.
After Saturday’s incident, the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Scudamore said: “We would like to praise the players, match officials, staff and medical teams of both clubs for their swift actions in attending Fabrice.”
Muamba, 23, was standing by himself when he fell to the ground. Players nearby and World Cup Final referee Howard Webb realised the seriousness of the situation immediately and summoned medical assistance.
Six team doctors from both sides had spent nearly 10 minutes applying chest compression, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and and defibrillator assistance on the pitch before Muamba was carried off on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask. Within 15 minutes he was being admitted to the intensive care department of the heart attack centre at the London Chest Hospital. Later it emerged that it was two hours before doctors could get Muamba’s heart working unaided.
Manager Owen Coyle and Bolton captain Kevin Davies accompanied Muamba in the ambulance. Meanwhile Webb, having consulted both managers, announced that the match had been abandoned. It will be replayed in full next week, probably on Wednesday. At Bolton’s request, Tuesday’s home Premier League game against Aston Villa has been postponed.
Several players from both teams were in tears – including Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe and Rafael Van der Vaart – as the seriousness of the situation became apparent and fans sung Muamba’s name while he was being treated. Both clubs praised the speed of action from the medical staff.
Muamba was born in what was then Zaire, now DR Congo, on April 6, 1988. His father came to England to seek asylum when Muamba was 11. He spoke no English when he went to school in Walthamstow – ironically just three miles from White Hart Lane – and joined Arsenal’s youth academy in 2002.
He played 33 times at under-21 level for England – several times as captain – while moving from Arsenal to Birmingham City and then, in 2008, to Bolton for whom he has made 148 appearances.
Gordon Taylor, the former Birmingham and Bolton player who is chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, described it was a “terrible thing to see for all the football family.”
Football Association chairman David Bernstein said their thoughts and prayers were with Muamba and his family. He added: “Fabrice has played 33 times for England Under-21s, captaining Stuart Pearce’s side during this time and is a player, and more importantly, a person we care greatly for.”
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore added: “The thoughts of the Premier League, its clubs and players are with Fabrice Muamba, his family and Bolton Wanderers. We would like to praise the players, match officials, coaching staff and medical teams of both clubs at White Hart Lane for their swift actions in attending Fabrice.
“The League would also like to commend the compassion shown by the fans of Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur. We hope to hear positive news about Fabrice who is and has been a wonderful ambassador for the English game.”
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