England - Fabrice Muamba began showing signs of improvement on Monday as his heart started beating without the help of medication and he began speaking again, two days after collapsing during a match from cardiac arrest.
The hospital treating the player stressed that he remained in critical condition in intensive care with an uncertain long-term prognosis. But a friend of Muamba said he was told by the family that the Bolton midfielder had started talking again.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Curtis Codrington said the family told him Muamba was speaking "minimal words in English and French, which is better than nothing."
The 23-year-old Muamba collapsed on the field just before half-time in the FA Cup match at Tottenham on Saturday and his heart only started beating on its own again when he arrived at a London hospital's heart attack unit that night.
Muamba has been in a critical condition since Saturday, but it was a more encouraging update on Monday afternoon.
"He is showing small signs of improvement," a joint statement from Bolton and the hospital said. "His heart is now beating without the help of medication and he is also moving his arms and his legs.
"However, his long-term prognosis will remain unclear for some time. He is still critically ill and will continue to be closely monitored and treated by staff in the London Chest Hospital's intensive care unit."
The player's fiancée has been issuing pleas on Twitter for the health of Muamba, who proposed on Valentine's Day. The couple has a 3 year-old son, Joshua.
"Fabrice WILL!! Pull through because God is good," Shauna Muamba tweeted. "Love u so much fmuamba keep strong we're praying for u honey ... where there is life there is hope."
Bolton manager Owen Coyle said the former England under-21 international is going through a "brave fight," adding that the club had been inundated with messages of support, including one from David Beckham.
"There is a real hope he can come through this. When situations like this occur there is a real strength, a real unity, a real togetherness ... that has given (the family) an incredible energy," Coyle said on Monday outside the east London hospital. "That source of energy that everyone is giving off is really bringing them together as a family and that is important for Fabrice's well-being."
Muamba, a former Arsenal and Birmingham player, fled to England with family in 1999 to escape the civil war in Congo.
"When you look what he has come through in his life already he is a natural fighter. He is a physically fit young man," Coyle said. "If those things can help at all it will be a source of help and encouragement."
FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote to Bolton chairman Phil Gartside on Monday to wish Muamba "strength as he continues to fight to recover."
"Moments like these show us what is truly important in life and also illustrate the great solidarity that exists between football fans in times of trouble," Blatter wrote in a message released by FIFA. "The football family's thoughts and prayers are with Fabrice's family, club and loved ones at this difficult time."
There is also concern in Muamba's homeland.
"We pray he recovers his health," Congo football federation president Omari Selemani told The Associated Press by telephone. "We are with him in heart and especially with his family at this difficult moment. Being of Congolese origin, it makes our country proud having a player from Congo playing abroad."
Bolton's next match, at Aston Villa on Tuesday in the Premier League, has been postponed because of the situation. The team is scheduled to play Blackburn on Saturday, and then could face Tottenham again next week in the FA Cup at White Hart Lane to replay the quarterfinal match that was abandoned on Saturday.
"I know the decision will have to be made, but the immediate thoughts are with Fabrice," Bolton captain Kevin Davies said about the possibility of Bolton pulling out of the FA Cup. "I'm sure the club will take a stance on it in the next couple of days."
Davies, who visited Muamba in the hospital over the weekend, said the Bolton squad had the option whether to attend training on Monday.
At Tottenham, players were due to undergo tests for potential heart defects, with cardiologist Sanjay Sharma saying "the players have all demanded cardiac screening" at a planned routine visit on Monday.
"That involves taking a history relating to cardiac symptoms, which include chest pain during exertion or breath which is disproportionate to the amount of exercise being performed and blackouts, (and) asking about a family history because many of these conditions that can cause cardiac arrest are hereditary," Sharma said.
"We then perform a cardiac examination and following that we do an ECG (electrocardiogram) which is an electrical tracing of the heart which looks for electric faults of the heart and a cardiac ultrasound which looks at heart muscle problems or problems with the heart values."