ALI Al Habsi has called on his close friend Fabrice Muamba to ‘keep on fighting’ for his life in a London hospital.
The Wigan goalkeeper was a team-mate of Muamba at Bolton Wanderers between 2008-10, and they became good pals both on and off the field.
Like the rest of the nation, Al Habsi was left stunned on Saturday evening as news broke of Muamba’s collapse during Bolton’s FA Cup-tie at Tottenham.
The 23-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest, with reports claiming it took medical staff around two hours to get his heart working again.
He remains “critically ill” but showing “small signs of improvement”, according to the London Chest Hospital. He has just spoken his first words and recognised members of his family.
And Al Habsi is keeping everything crossed that his friend makes as full a recovery as is possible.
“He’s a fantastic lad, really genuine, and I remember him being a real fighter,” Al Habsi told the Evening Post.
“He has shown in the past few days what a fighter he is, and hopefully he’ll continue to do that.”
Al Habsi still has strong ties to Bolton, having only left the Reebok last summer after spending the 2010-11 campaign on loan at Wigan.
And he admits this latest shock – coming so soon after the tragic death of former Wanderers ace Gary Speed – has hit him hard.
“I’ve been in touch with some of my old friends at Bolton and they are obviously devastated,” Al Habsi added.
“It’s so very sad what’s happened.
“I was driving home after our game on Saturday and was listening to the Bolton game on the radio.
“The commentator said that Fabrice had gone down with no-one around him, and I couldn’t believe it.
“I was with him for two years, and I got very close to him and admired him so much.
“When you play with someone for two years you really get to know them.
“You’re training with them virtually every day, and you become very close.
“I just wish him all the best, and the whole of the football family is with him.
“We’re all praying for him.”