09 16 2014
  10:33 am  
     •     

(CNN) -- Devastated, but grateful to be alive -- soccer player Fabrice Muamba announced his retirement on Wednesday, five months after suffering a cardiac arrest on the playing field.

The 24-year-old, who played for English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers, collapsed during an FA Cup match at Tottenham Hotspur in March.

Medics battled to resuscitate the midfielder in front of the White Hart Lane crowd and it was later revealed the Zaire-born player's heart had stopped beating for 78 minutes.

Muamba spent one month in a London hospital and had hoped to make a playing return, telling CNN this month that he had been back on the pitch in an informal kickaround, but medical experts have advised him against attempting a comeback.

"As part of my ongoing recovery, last week I traveled to Belgium to seek further medical advice from a leading cardiologist," the former Arsenal trainee, who represented England at under-21 level, said in a statement released by Bolton.

"But the news I received was obviously not what I had hoped it would be and it means I am now announcing my retirement from professional football.

"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.

"While the news is devastating, I have much to be thankful for. 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.

"I would also like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my career, and the Bolton fans who have been incredible. I am blessed to have the support of my family and friends at this time."

Following the incident, which was broadcast live around the world, Muamba received widespread support and goodwill -- including Real Madrid players wearing t-shirts with his name on.

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside was saddened by the news, but insisted Muamba must now focus on his life outside of soccer.

"To have Fabrice here and with us is truly amazing and we are all very thankful for that," he said.

"We are all hugely disappointed that Fabrice will be unable to return to his playing career but we have to be guided by the medical recommendations and the best interests of Fabrice.

"The most important thing is that Fabrice and his family have the rest of their lives ahead of them."

Bolton manager Owen Coyle, who was at Muamba's bedside in the early part of his ordeal, echoed Gartside's sentiments.

"We have spoken with Fab and he knows we will always support him in whatever he wants to do and that we will always be here for him," said Coyle, whose team begin life in the second division on Saturday after being relegated last season.

"He is obviously massively disappointed that he won't be able to carry on his career, but everyone has seen what a fighter and strong person he is in mind and body.

"We know that he will go on to achieve great things and within all this disappointment, the most important thing is that he is here, alive, today."

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