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Bolton to Play First Match Since Player’s Collapse on Field

Bolton Wanderers will play Blackburn this weekend in their first match since midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a heart attack in a game last week.

The clubs, both just above the three-team relegation zone in English soccer’s Premier League, will play at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium on March 24.

Muamba collapsed shortly before halftime of a F.A. Cup match at Tottenham a week earlier. The televised game was called off after medical crews struggled to re-start the English player’s heart.

“We spoke together with the players as a group this morning, and I talked to Fabrice’s family last night,” coach Owen Coyle said today in a statement on Bolton’s website. “Fabrice’s father Marcel and his fiancée Shauna were keen that we fulfill our fixtures. Once the players knew this, there was no doubt in our minds that we would play the matches.”

Blackburn is in 16th place, with 28 points, while Bolton is 17th, one point and one spot above three bottom teams with 22 points each. Bolton has 10 games remaining this season, while Blackburn has played one additional match.

The F.A. Cup quarterfinal match with Tottenham will be replayed at March 27 at White Hart Lane, England’s Football Association said on its website.

The 23-year-old Muamba has shown signs of recovery, recognizing family members and responding to questions at the London Chest Hospital, where he remains in intensive care.

The club and hospital said earlier in the week that Muamba’s heart was beating without the aid of medicine and he was also moving his arms and legs.

Induced Coma

The player was put into a medically induced coma after his March 17th collapse at White Hart Lane in north London. Medical staff at the stadium treated the player on the pitch with a defibrillator before he was carried off on a stretcher as both teams’ fans chanted his name.

It took two hours to get Muamba’s heart working steadily after his collapse. Players and fans were visibly upset, with some in tears. Match referee Howard Webb took both teams off the field and moments later called off the game with the score tied 1-1.

The Daily Mirror reported on March 19 that Bolton was considering withdrawing from the F.A. Cup, England’s premier cup competition. Trotters’ officials were concerned about the possible psychological impact on Muamba’s teammates, the newspaper said.

Bolton’s Premier League game at Aston Villa scheduled for last night was postponed.

Muamba, a Democratic Republic of Congo-born former member of England’s under-21 national team and a one-time Arsenal midfielder, is in his fourth season with Bolton. He has appeared in 19 matches this season, scoring once.

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