LONDON — English soccer player Fabrice Muamba began breathing on his own and responding to family members Monday, showing significant signs of recovery two days after going into cardiac arrest during a match.
The 23-year-old Bolton midfielder collapsed on the field just before halftime at Tottenham on Saturday. Initial attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful, and his heart started beating on its own again only later in the hospital.
For two days, amid an outpouring of global support, Muamba remained in critical condition in intensive care in a heart attack unit, and his long-term prognosis was uncertain.
But the Congo-born player made progress throughout Monday, with doctors no longer describing his condition as “critical” by the evening.
“He is continuing to show signs of improvement this evening,” Bolton and the London Chest Hospital said in a joint statement. “He is now able to breathe independently without the aid of a ventilator. He has also been able to recognize family members and respond to questions appropriately.
“These are all positive signs of progress. However, the medical staff in intensive care will continue to monitor and treat him.”
Friend Curtis Codrington said the family told him Muamba was speaking “minimal words in English and French, which is better than nothing.”
Bolton manager Owen Coyle said earlier Monday that Muamba, who has played 33 matches for England’s under-21 team, had been putting up a “brave fight.”
“There is a real hope he can come through this. When situations like this occur there is a real strength, a real unity, a real togetherness ... that has given (the family) an incredible energy,” Coyle said. “That source of energy that everyone is giving off is really bringing them together as a family and that is important for Fabrice’s well being.”
Bolton’s next match, at Aston Villa today in the Premier League, has been postponed. The team is scheduled to play Saturday, and then could face Tottenham again next week in the FA Cup to replay the quarterfinal match that was abandoned Saturday.