Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Bolton players warm up wearing "Muamba 6" jerseys prior to their home match against Blackburn.
Bolton players warm up wearing 'Muamba 6' jerseys prior to their home match against Blackburn.

Strained Bolton raise a smile for Fabrice Muamba

Fans of all sorts, not just from Bolton, descended on the Wanderers home game against Blackburn, with one cheer on their lips: "Fabrice Muamba!"

An observer not familiar with the remarkable recovery this week of Fabrice Muamba might have been forgiven for believing the Bolton Wanderers midfielder had actually passed away on Saturday, such was the emotion and solemnity on show by the sea of football shirts.

Bolton's first game since Muamba collapsed following a cardiac arrest last Saturday was seen by the biggest crowd of the season, a capacity 26,901. They were joined Saturday joined by a large media contingent in the unseasonably warm Lancashire sunshine.

A television reporter asked a child in a Bolton shirt if he could possibly re-lay his scarf by the ever expanding carpet of football paraphernalia and flowers near the Reebok Stadium's book of remembrance.

"Got it," affirmed his cameraman after the child did as requested.

From Madrid to Wolverhampton, Lionel Messi to David Beckham, the story has enveloped and consumed football in a wave of condolence and commiseration which overshadowed stories reporting the actual loss of life.

There have been accusations of public mawkishness and maudlin musings.

"I couldn't open the papers this week without crying," said the Boltonian John Main.

"Muamba isn't our biggest star, but you notice when he's not there. He's been a great for us, he breaks up play, gets in faces and gets the tackles in. I just hope to see him play in a Bolton shirt again."

His son, Adam, said he was "surprised at how big the story has been" before turning his attention back to the less important issue of results on the pitch.

"I hope that what has happened somehow lifts the players."

Phil Gartside, the Bolton chairman, said in a pre-matcn interview he "felt privileged to have been in the middle of it".

"We have gone through the full capacity of emotions and thankfully, we are smiling at the end of it."

The case has served to unite an often divided and divisive football community.

One goodwill message outside the stadium read "Football United", while shirts from Bolton's often detested rivals, Manchester United, Wigan Athletic and Bury, were also prevalent. One of the most prominent messages was a placard from the local Zakariyya Mosque. A tiny percentage of Bolton's 15.8 per cent Muslim population watch Bolton live.

The Muamba tribute continued inside the stadium.

Fifty minutes before kick-off, both sets of players and match officials warmed up in shirts bearing "Muamba 6".

Seven minutes before kick-off, a video screen showed the images of support received globally and highlights of Muamba's best Bolton moments.

As the players entered the field, 5,000 home fans held up cards spelling out "Muamba 6" in a mosaic which filled a lower tier of one of the stands.

The crowd applauded non-stop and the players soon joined them before a chant of "Fabrice Muamba" broke out, not just among home fans but the 6,000 Blackburn fans who had travelled 12 miles south across the west Lancashire moors.

Pitch-side advertising hoardings read: "Faith - Football - Family". The Bolton players embraced in an extended hug.

The normal hostility was eventually resumed when the Blackburn fans booed the announcement of the Bolton team.

Steve Kean, the Blackburn manager, had told his players to "play the game, not the occasion".

Fans sang "Fabrice Muamba" after both of David Wheater's first-half headers and at the conclusion of an emotional, 2-1 victory.

In a football context, its a great end to the week to get three points, but the perfect end will be for Fabrice to come out of that hospital better with that big smile of his, said Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager.

Bolton's players had risen as their fans had hoped, with the former player Phil Brown describing it as a "great day".

They will need several more if they are to stay up, but relegation had not really seemed that important this week.

sports@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Yuvraj Singh, left, and Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrating after they won their IPL match against Delhi Daredevils at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: IPL 7 action at Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Royal Challengers Bangalore’s power-hitters laid down a marker at the first opportunity in IPL 2014 as they cruised past a hapless Delhi Daredevils with eight wickets, 20 deliveries, and about three more gears to spare in front of a packed house at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday, April 17, 2014.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.

 Chris Burch will play fly-half as part of a new-look back line for the UAE national rugby union team that will face Singapore at The Sevens grounds in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National

Chris Burch to lead UAE’s charge against Singapore

he UAE’s bid to safeguard their place in the second tier of Asian rugby against Singapore next week will be piloted by a player who was contemplating retirement from the sport at this time last year.

 Opening performance during Day 3 of the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the First Gulf Bank Arena at Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al-Marzooqi/ The National

In pictures: Day 3 of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship

All the action from Day 3 of the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the First Gulf Bank Arena at Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi.

 Atletico Madrid's Cristian Rodriguez, second left, celebrates his goal with team mates, and coach Diego Simeone, third right. Atletico are on the cusp of a Primer Liga title. AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

Atletico Madrid look to edge towards Primera Liga title before Chelsea visit

Diego Simeone's men need to win just four of their five remaining games to seal the Primera Liga championship and they take on Elche before the first leg of their Uefa Champions League semi-final against Chelsea on Tuesday.

 Jorginho accepts the challenge that lies ahead for Al Wasl's improvement, and the club says it will give him time ... if they see results.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Wasl will give Jorginho time but results in Arabian Gulf League are needed

Al Wasl officials said they will provide Jorginho, their new coach, sufficient time to change the club’s fortunes while also warning that his fate ultimately will depend on results.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National