Fabrice Muamba returned to Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok Stadium to present hundreds of football shirts, tributes laid at the ground by supporters during his stay in hospital a year ago, to the aid and development charity CAFOD.
The shirts will now travel over 4,000 miles to Muamba’s homeland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to be donated to vulnerable children and young people who have become separated from their families through poverty and conflict.
In the emotional days and weeks that followed Fabrice’s collapse at White Hart Lane almost a year ago, the sea of jerseys at the Reebok Stadium, placed by supporters of clubs from all over the UK and Europe, became a symbol of hope and goodwill towards the star as the football community united to ‘Pray for Muamba’.
Speaking of the tributes, Fabrice said:"I was, and I am still completely overwhelmed by the support that we got from all around the world, we remain deeply grateful for all the love and prayers from everyone.
“It is marvellous that the tributes can go on to do greater good, and I would like to thank CAFOD for their help in making this happen. There are many, many, young children facing difficult lives and they remain in my thoughts and prayers.”
Club Chaplain Phil Mason, who supported players and staff through the incident last year helped Fabrice to pack away the shirts, and said: “We are really are like a family here at Bolton Wanderers FC and this time last year we were all hit very hard by what happened to Fabrice.
“ It made us pull together even closer and the shirts left here by fans from clubs all over the world made us feel like part of an even bigger family.
“It’s in this spirit that the shirts are being sent to children in Africa who love football and I hope that helps them to feel connected to Bolton Wanderers FC and all of the other football fans in the world.”
Bolton Wanderers Chairman Phil Gartside added: "Quite literally the whole world was praying for Fabrice to pull through. It was an amazing experience to see this and Fabrice has embraced this to try and achieve positive outcomes in a number of areas and this is one of them.
“CAFOD must be thanked for their hard work in achieving the distribution of the shirts and their role in supporting those youngsters who have such difficult lives.”