This is the footballer who "died" on the silent turf of White Hart Lane back in March. For 78 minutes Fabrice Muamba's heart no longer worked. It is in the eye of this potential tragedy that reason lies, not in the relentless, addictive world of the dressing room or around the training ground, or in those moments when footballers step out of the tunnel and their dreams dance in front of them.
The starting point for the Muamba story is when his heart stopped. Yesterday, he declared his football career had officially stopped. The two sentences must sit together to contextualise what that actually means.
Of course, there is disappointment that a 24-year-old who played for England at Under-21 level and who graduated from the Arsenal academy has called time on his playing career so early. But it is not prematurely, as the doctors who made breath possible again confirmed in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
Muamba's heart is not strong enough for him to be a footballer. The area around his heart is weak – there is a mechanical problem as result of the cardiac arrest he suffered 41 minutes into an FA Cup quarter-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers. He had 15 defibrillator shocks before his heart started beating again.
He had travelled to Belgium last week for what was said to be a routine, minor operation. The news came then. Thankfully, there was a philosophical undercurrent to what he said.
"While the news is devastating, I have much to be thankful for," he said. "I thank God that I am alive and I pay tribute once again to the members of the medical team who never gave up on me.
"Since suffering my heart attack and being discharged from hospital, I have remained utterly positive in the belief I could one day resume my playing career and play for Bolton Wanderers once again.
"Football has been my life since I was a teenage boy and it has given me so many opportunities. Above all else, I love the game and count myself very lucky to have been able to play at the highest level."Reuse content