21st March, 2012
The harrowing scenes of Fabrice Muamba’s desperate fight for life on the pitch brought horrific flashbacks to a former Premier League star.
Khalilou Fadiga could barely believe what he was hearing as doctors and physios battled to save the Bolton midfielder at White Hart Lane.
Muamba’s sad plight was almost a repeat of ex-Wanderers star Fadiga’s own terrible experience in 2004.
Fadiga has not slept since he learned Muamba, 23, suffered a cardiac arrest during Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Tottenham and no wonder.
He, too, was playing for Bolton against Tottenham when he fell ill.
Fadiga suffered a cardiac arrhythmia — known as an irregular heartbeat — as he warmed up with his team-mates ahead of their Carling Cup clash.
So Fadiga is acutely aware of the fight facing Muamba . . . but also insists it happened in the right place. Fadiga told SunSport: “At the same time that I’m sad, I’m glad because it was in England and people are very, very professional when something like this happens.
“I was so happy it happened to me in Bolton, if it was somewhere else other than England I was not going to be like that. I would not be here.
“That is why I am always thankful for Bolton and England. It’s the same in England everywhere where you play professional football.”
Fadiga is indebted to Bolton medics Richard Freeman and Mark Taylor for saving him — and also says Sam Allardyce gave him the support needed when he was boss at the club.
He said: “I remember it very well, you cannot forget something like that.
“I was in the warm-up with El Hadji Diouf, Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campo and all the guys, we were laughing.
“Then I just felt hit from toes to head. I was in the dressing room when I woke up and I saw the doctor next to me.
“Bruno N’Gotty wasn’t playing and he was there too. Richard Freeman tried to explain to me but I wasn’t really conscious.
“I felt better when I went from the stadium to hospital, and Sam Allardyce came to visit me.” The reaction from the football community that has rallied around Muamba comes as no surprise to Fadiga after the support he also received.
The Senegalese said: “He is a young player I know and it was against the same opponent. So I feel more affected than many do.
“People are so concerned, you saw that at Tottenham. You feel the concern from the fans, maybe in other countries they feel that too but it is definitely there in England.”
Fadiga was watching his 12-year-old son playing football when news of Muamba’s situation broke.
He immediately rushed back to his Belgian home to catch up on the latest news. He admitted: “I haven’t slept since it happened.
“I know if he’s conscious he probably would not want me sending messages, as that is not what I wanted.
“But of course, I will be praying for him and I’m not the only one who will be.
“You can never give up in life and it is a fight, so we wish him the best with the fight.
“I just want him to know I am thinking about him, he is an honest, good boy. And Bolton will help him like they helped me.”
With the help of Bolton, Fadiga continued his career and joined Coventry before returning to Belgium and retiring last year to become an agent and TV pundit.
He was the first footballer in Europe to play with a fitted defibrillator, but now other players in Germany and Holland use them.
Now 37, he said: “At Inter Milan I had problems but no one was there. But Bolton, they gave me confidence. I had problems but they still made me feel very good.
“It will be tough for Fabrice because after a couple of months it is always in your head. You think about what can you do — and think ‘this is my career’.
“You have to fight every day to improve yourself. I know Bolton won’t let him down. It is that help that pushes you through these times.”