Muamba: Players are needed as role models more than ever

3 Oct 2023
Premier League PFA Fabrice Muamba

Former Arsenal and Bolton midfielder talks about his role with the PFA which encourages players to get involved in community programmes

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In 2012, Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during a Premier League match at Tottenham Hotspur.

It was a moment that changed his life forever.

Although the incident forced Muamba's retirement from playing, it wasn’t going to stop him being involved in the world of football.

And he is using his second chance at life to encourage players to get involved in their club's community work as part of his role as Player Services Executive with the Professional Footballers' Association.

What does your role entail? 

I want to build a bridge between current and former players and show the important role that we play in the community. We can share the valuable lessons we've learned as players and hopefully that can build a better community for the football club.

As somebody who came to the country with hardly any qualifications, I always share my story to inspire the younger generations that there is more to life than just kicking a ball.

It's something that I take very seriously, I want to help as much as I can.

Why is that bridge between players, club and the community so important? 

It's vital that fans and young people see and have a positive image of players. It's about making sure that you are accessible, that you have a positive impact in society.

We can see what Marcus Rashford means to Man Utd, what Trent Alexander-Arnold is to Liverpool. You see players playing different roles in their career in terms of helping society.

Society needs us more than ever. We live in a society where young people need to be inspired by a positive image and if we can get more players to be involved in different projects, it's massive.

Was community work important to you when you were a player? 

During the course of my career, especially at Bolton, I did a lot of club visits.

Bolton v Stoke, 2008/09
Fabrice Muamba moves away from Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan

When you start going to different schools, you see how important it is for players to engage with young people and to show that we're just normal people. You start to appreciate what that means.

What is your background?

I came to England from the Congo in 1999. I was never taught English and I only spoke in French.

The language issue was the biggest barrier for me. At school I had my French dictionary next to my books. Every time a teacher would say a word, I would try to find out what it meant.

I was known as the tall African boy and my friends would always get me to play but I never felt like I would get into Academy football. I was fortunate that football gave me an opportunity to play at the highest level.

How did the cardiac arrest in 2012 shape you?

My career ended because of the accident but I was fortunate that I had the best medical staff I could wish for. There are many people who go through the same circumstances but the outcome is completely different.

It took me about three years to get my head around the whole accident. I was in shock. I saw a specialist in Belgium who explained exactly happened to me.

He said, "For you to still be here is incredible. To be out for 79 minutes without oxygen, that's a long time. You should have brain damage."

I always see the positives in a situation. I'm not upset that I stopped playing because I feel like I fulfilled the dream and life goes on.

Why do you feel so passionate about this work?

During my journey, a lot of people went out of their way to help me, so I feel it's only right that I do the same.

When I had my accident, I think I had four boxes of letters and people went out of their way to wish me well. I think in return, the least I can do is something for the community.

You go out there and show that you care because those people didn't have to do that for me.

What does the partnership between the Premier League and the PFA mean to you?

It's a project that will have a huge legacy and impact on society.


We now need more high-profile names to be involved as much as they can. The perception is that players don’t care but that’s not the case.

Being a part of a community event shows that you are more than a footballer.

They will love it. Imagine going to school and someone like Marcus Rashford is there reading a book to the class? It's something the children will never forget.

Now imagine if we had a Marcus Rashford in every club, showing that interest, it's a success for everyone. The impact would be mind-blowing.

Fabrice was talking at the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association Community Fund annual conference in July 2023. Administered through the Premier League Charitable Fund, the fund helps football clubs to tackle inequality and respond to local challenges, supporting people and their communities to be more inclusive.

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