The FA Cup quarter-final between Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers was abandoned just before half-time on Saturday night after the Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch. The 23-year-old was taken to hospital after receiving medical treatment on the pitch and Bolton later issued a statement saying that he was "in a critically ill condition in intensive care" at the heart attack centre at the London Chest Hospital.
It was unclear what caused the Bolton player to fall down in the 42nd minute with the score level at 1-1, but he was in obvious distress. Players and staff immediately realised the seriousness of the situation, with Tottenham's players gesturing frantically for the paramedics to come on. The medical teams sprinted to the scene. Muamba lost consciousness and several attempts were made to resuscitate him on the pitch using CPR. Bolton's manager, Owen Coyle, shouted: "He's just collapsed," before running across to join the paramedics and looked on as the medical team struggled to revive his stricken player.
After six minutes of receiving heart massage, Muamba was carried off the pitch with a defibrillator being used. Efforts to revive him continued as he was transferred to an ambulance. Coyle, and Bolton's club captain, Kevin Davies, accompanied Muamba to hospital.
The referee, Howard Webb, consulted both managers and the two captains, Nigel Reo-Coker and Scott Parker, and took the players off the pitch. A few minutes later it was announced that the match was abandoned. No explanation was given but the crowd began chanting Muamba's name and applauded before filing out quietly.
Spurs said in a statement: "Tottenham can confirm that Fabrice Muamba has been taken to hospital following his collapse on the pitch during the match at White Hart Lane this evening. The match was immediately abandoned. Everyone at the club sends their best wishes to Fabrice and his family."
Outside the hospital, the club's manager Owen Coyle said the following 24 hours were "absolutely crucial" and urged people to pray for the player's recovery.
"We've obviously been inundated with people wishing him well and we hope that if everybody can pray strongly tonight that Fabrice is able to recover.
"It's very serious. There's no getting away from that. He's critically ill and God willing he makes it through."
Muamba, who was born in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was granted asylum status in Britain in 1999 at the age of 11, rejoining his father who had been forced to flee his homeland on political grounds. He went on to represent England at junior level, up to the under-21s. He began his career at Arsenal's academy, where he was a popular member of the club's youth setup. He moved to Birmingham before signing for Bolton in 2008.
The Football Association quickly expressed support. A statement from the FA chairman, David Bernstein, wished Muamba well. "On behalf of The FA, I would like to send our thoughts and prayers to Fabrice Muamba and his family this evening," Bernstein said. "Fabrice has played 33 times for England Under-21s, captaining Stuart Pearce's side during this time, and is a player, and more importantly a person, we care greatly for. We are in contact with Bolton Wanderers over Fabrice's condition and are awaiting updates."
It is unclear when or if the Cup tie will be replayed. The semi-finals are due to be staged at Wembley on the weekend of 14 and 15 April.
There was an immediate reaction on Twitter. Spurs' Rafael van der Vaart, who was on the pitch when Muamba collapsed, tweeted: "Terrible what happened with Muamba during the game. We're all praying for him." Jack Wilshere, who played with Muamba when on loan from Arsenal at Bolton, tweeted: "Hope Muamba is okay. Thoughts with him." His Arsenal team-mate Aaron Ramsey said: "Thoughts are with Fabrice Muamba."
The Middlesbrough defender Justin Hoyte, who came through the Arsenal youth team with Muamba, posted: "I seriously hope my best friend in football is OK. Stay strong bro please please stay strong. God is with you remember that." Muamba's clubmate Stuart Holden wrote: "Praying for you Fab. Hope he's OK. Thoughts with him and his family." The Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone wrote: "Thoughts with Fab and his family."
The Manchester United defender and former England captain Rio Ferdinand posted on Twitter, saying: "Come on Fabrice Muamba, praying for you."
The Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, told the BBC: "At the moment we are all watching, waiting, hoping and praying. For all the football family it's a terrible thing to see."
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said: "The thoughts of the Premier League, its clubs and players are with Fabrice Muamba, his family and Bolton Wanderers.
"We would like to praise the players, match officials, coaching staff and medical teams of both clubs at White Hart Lane for their swift actions in attending Fabrice.
"The league would also like to commend the compassion shown by the fans of Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur.
"We hope to hear positive news about Fabrice who is and has been a wonderful ambassador for the English game and the league at Arsenal, Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers."