Professional footballer, whose heart stopped
MY HEART STOPPED FOR SEVENTY-EIGHT MINUTES
My name is Fabrice Muamba, and I was born on April 6, 1988 to Marcel and Gertrude Muamba in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). My mother would make me and my brother Daniel attend church before we were allowed to play football. Daniel and I would visit during church services. We were not disruptive, but were not totally focused on the message.
My father fled the country in 1994 because of his political views and arrived in the United Kingdom seeking asylum. In 1999, he was granted indefinite leave to remain, at which time he was joined by the rest of the family. We settled in east London, where I attended Kelmscott School in Walthamstow. Despite arriving in Britain at eleven years of age, I was unable to speak English. I went on to achieve 10 GCSEs and A-levels in English, French and mathematics.
I began my career with Arsenal and gained recognition when playing for Birmingham City. After completing the tenure of my contract and making 70 appearances for Birmingham City, I finally moved to Bolton Wanderers. My style of play was often compared with the legendary French footballer Patrick Vieira, thus proving my competence at the mid-field. My brilliance surpassed the football field as I excelled in academics, irrespective of his inability to speak English. At the age of 11, I took refuge in England, escaping the violence in my birth city of Kinshasa; now situated in DR Congo. As a British Citizen on the basis of naturalization, I represented England at U-19 and U-21 level.
Career as a Professional Footballer
I joined the ‘Arsenal Academy’ in August 2004 while his association with the club’s youth system goes back to 2002. I made his team debut in a league cup in October 2005, at Sunderland, after signing a professional contract the same month. In my second match for Arsenal against Reading, I aided the team to a 0-3 victory. This also proved to be his second and last appearance for the club.
I joined Birmingham City in August 2006 on loan and soon established myself as a central midfielder by my pace and energy on the field. I gained popularity among Birmingham fans and was voted as the ‘Young Player of the Season.’ On May 11, 2007, I made my stay permanent with the club as I got to play regularly here and felt limited by Arsenal’s mid-field strength. The contract was for three years and for a fee of 4 million pounds.
To remain eligible to play for England, I declined the offer to play for DR Congo. I was the captain of England’s U-19 team and played against Romania in a friendly for the U-21 team on August 21, 2007, at Ashton Gate, Bristol. I played six more matches at this level.
On June 16, 2008, I moved to Bolton Wanderers on a four-year contract for a fee of 5 million pounds. I had an impressive season and was named as ‘The Bolton News Player of the Season.’ In the opening match of the 2011-12 seasons, I contributed in Bolton’s 4-0 win by scoring against Queens Park Rangers.
However, I had problems with fame as a professional football player. I developed a spirit of lust. Girls threw themselves at me, and I thought I was a playboy. I turned into a womanizing playboy while at Blues – almost wrecking my relationship with my future wife by dating a string of other women.
The following season I became a full-time player at St Andrew’s, earning a whopping £10,000 a week, but I admit that the fame and money went to my head. I started going out to nightclubs in Birmingham and, because it was a small city, it soon got around that we were lads who enjoyed a good time. I started getting in trouble with girls who heard I was speaking to other girls on the same nights out and all that. They all seemed to know each other!
After the club’s promotion to the Premier League, I found more women chasing me – so resorted to using a false name. By this point, the girls were really starting to throw themselves at me. It was ridiculous. I coped by pretending my name was ‘Marcus’ when we went out. That meant that nobody would hassle me.
It was in September 2007, on the day Blues beat Bolton, that I met my wife-to-be Shauna at Birmingham’s Oceana nightclub. I recalled, “I was normally very shy when it came to speaking to girls. But it just felt like something I had to do, so I found this boldness from somewhere. We then swapped numbers and I tried to remain calm despite the big problems on the horizon. I told her I was 24 when I was only 18 and, secondly, I told her that my name was Marcus.
Back then it just seemed easier to give a stupid false name so you didn’t attract the wrong girls who only seemed interested in you because of your day job. There’s no denying a lot of girls only show you any attention because you’re a footballer. But we hit a rocky patch because of my antics with other women.
Shauna is strong, confident and always speaks her mind and there’s no two ways about it, she puts me in my place when I needed it. However, that does not mean I was the perfect early boyfriend and I made some mistakes that could have proved to be the end of us as a couple.
After Shauna and I had been going out for about nine months, I started playing football at Birmingham. I also started playing the field and we inevitably split up. What can I say? I was an idiot; I thought I was a playboy back then. My earlier lack of confidence with girls had been replaced by me thinking I could run around Birmingham trying to get my groove on. It was silly of me to act in that way, it was silly of me to hurt Shauna that way and to also get other people involved.
I wanted the freedom that being a young man can offer you, especially a young man with a high profile. I’m not the first or last footballer to act stupidly when all these temptations are placed in front of you.
I met another woman at a barber shop and a string of women after.
After leaving Shauna for that girl, I then bounced to another very quickly, which just made me look more of an idiot. Shauna was very, very upset. It was the worst I’ve ever seen her and it was unforgivable. When I look back, I was clueless about what matters. I would have handled it very differently.
After we split, Shauna revealed she was pregnant with my baby, an announcement that changed his life. “I knew it was time to be a man and step up and take care of my child. I’d got myself into this situation and it was time to do the right thing.
MY LIFE CHANGED WHEN MY HEART STOPPED FOR SEVENTY-EIGHT MINUTES
I thought football would help me to succeed in life. Before every game I would call my dad, and we would pray. As I started to mature, prayer became the catalyst for my life. Although we had a team chaplain, I would offend lead prayer before the football games.
On March 17, 2012, I collapsed on the field after a cardiac arrest during the first half of an FA Cup quarter-final match against Tottenham Hotspur. I received immediate medical attention from the personnel at White Hart Lane and from Dr. Andrew Deaner, a cardiologist who was in the stand with his brothers. Later, I was shifted to the London Chest Hospital and admitted to the coronary care unit. It was later revealed by the club’s Bolton doctor that I was dead. My heart stopped for 78 minutes. Shauna remained at my bedside and prayed. After seventy-eight minutes with no heartbeat, God awakened me. I sat up in bed and started speaking in an unknown language. Shauna said, “What are you speaking?” I was speaking a heavenly language. I had a divine visitation.
While in the hospital a Jamaican lady came into my room and touched my head three times and prayed. I fell back into the bed. She was imparting the power of the Holy Spirit into my life. I had never seen her before. I asked her who she was and she said, “God has called me to touch people.”
I married Shauna Magunda in 2012 and we had one child – Joshua Jeremiah. I graduated from Staffordshire University with a degree in accounting.
I was a former Bolton central mid-fielder and played professional football from 2005 to 2012.
After my premature retirement, I spent some time doing charities and aiding the cause of heart health. Later, I was drawn back into football and sought a career as a coach.
After seeking medical advice from a leading cardiologist in Belgium, I announced my retirement from professional football on August 15, 2012.
Post Retirement Career
After my forced retirement, I tried to build my career in football-related activities. First, I tried commentary for BT Sport’s broadcast of the third round of the playoffs during the African World Cup qualification.
After spending some time with my family and raising awareness of heart health, I decided to come back to football through coaching. I received a Football Management Diploma at the ‘University of Liverpool’ and after a few coaching sessions at Liverpool’s academy in March 2015; I got the opportunity to coach the U-16 team at Rochdale at the invitation of my friend, Brett Issitt.
My pace and energy won the hearts of the Birmingham City Fans and they voted me the ‘Young Player of the Season.’ I accepted an honorary doctorate awarded by the ‘University of Bolton.’ My new mission was to help the awareness of medical professionals who helped save my life.
Family & Personal Life
During his time at Birmingham City, I met Shauna Magunda, a student at Birmingham University. We got engaged on Valentine’s Day in 2012, a month before I suffered a cardiac arrest.
Seven months after the stroke, on October 21, 2012, I married Shauna at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire. My decision to marry was a result of my experience with death, and I didn’t want to wait any longer. We have two sons, Joshua Jeremiah and Matthew Josiah.
I had obtained accountancy qualifications while playing professional football.
While I signed for Bolton, Shauna remained in Birmingham where she eventually gave birth to baby Joshua on November 1 in 2008. I raced to Birmingham and she was in the waiting room with her mother, Marva who was understandably frosty with me. Shauna was taken into the delivery room, and I went in with her and it was all done very quickly. I was handed this tiny, little bundle. And it was at the split second that I became a man.
I held him and I cried. He was a tiny, perfect, healthy baby boy. I was buzzing. In fact, I was miles beyond buzzing.
It was Shauna who brought me to my senses. She told me about an Italian footballer Piermario Morosini and Norwegian swimmer Alexander Dale Oen, who both died after suffering cardiac arrests. She said ‘that was you but somehow I pulled through with God’s help.’ I realized that I had to calm myself down and just be grateful to be alive.