-Footballer says thank you to millions of fans who have supported him
-Student who posted racists Tweet loses appeal to be released early from jail
By Rick Dewsbury
It's the picture the world has been waiting to see.
Fabrice Muamba sits up his hospital bed wearing a wide smile almost two weeks after collapsing mid-way through a match.
The footballer's fiance Shauna Magunda posted the heart-warming image earlier today to say thank you to the millions of fans who have supported her partner after he suffered a near fatal heart attack.
It shows the Bolton FC star wearing a blue hooded sports top and lying back in his hospital bed. His smile shows the miraculous recovery he has made since the game on March 17.
Heart-warming: Fabrice Muamba sits up smiling in his hospital bed today almost two weeks after collapsing midway through a football match
Ms Magunda wrote alongside the image: 'Fab wanted me to post this pic for you all and to also say thank you for such overwhelming support.'
The picture attracted a string of emotional responses from fans on the social networking site.
One wrote: 'God bless you Fabrice. You keep on fighting, son. Get well soon.'
Muamba's heart stopped for 78 minutes as paramedics - including a cardiologist who leapt onto the pitch from the stands - battled to keep the player alive.
He was rushed to the London Chest Hospital, where he was visited by his Bolton team-mates and a string of football friends.
It was later revealed that 15 defibrillator shocks were administered before the sportsman began to show signs of life.
The incident stunned the football community and heralded a worldwide outpouring of sympathy for the 23-year-old player as his family urged fans to prey for him.
The picture will delight the legions of football supporters who have followed the plight of the youngster. He is likely to undergo a long rehabilitation before he can come close to playing again.
Meanwhile, a student who mocked the footballer on Twitter after he collapsed today lost his appeal against a 56-day jail term.
Liam Stacey, 21, of Pontypridd, south Wales, sobbed as he was taken away following the failed sentence appeal hearing at Swansea Crown Court.
'God is in control': Shauna Magunda, right, Fabrice Muamba's fiancee urged her Twitter followers to keep the Bolton player in their prayers as he fights for life
Mr Justice Wyn Williams told him he rejected an argument that Stacey had already been punished enough. He said the Swansea University biology student had admitted an offence, racially aggravated public disorder, of intent.
'He was intending to say what he said and was intending to produce the effect that he did.'
The court heard Stacey has been treated as a 'pariah' by other prisoners since he was locked up.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Wyn Williams told him: 'There can be no avoiding the conclusion that your offence was committed in the context of a grave illness that had afflicted Fabrice Muamba.
'It was immediately apparent that he was gravely ill and while he was lying prostrate on the pitch you posted comments that were extremely racist couched in terms that can only be described as extremely offensive.
'What was written was capable of being read by any user of Twitter and these messages provoked a very strong response.
'You received responses which were extremely critical but you did not desist - instead you posted eight messages which were extremely abusive and insulting.
'You later realised the enormity of your behaviour and tried to apologise. But you deserve to be punished for your actions. It can’t be argued that a term of 56 days is too long for this offence.
'By pleading guilty you admitted a racist intent to your comments.'
Shame: Liam Stacey is led away in handcuffs outside Swansea Magistrates Court
Stacey was watching the FA cup match between Spurs and Bolton Wanderers on TV when Muamba fell to the ground.
Earlier he had been drinking while watching Wales win the rugby Grand Slam match against France.
Stacey Tweeted: “LOL, F*** Muamba. He’s dead!!! £haha,” - then posted eight further offensive racist messages.
Stacey was jailed for 56 days on Tuesday after admitting racially aggravated harassment and disorder.
The reviled tweet came at a time when the Bolton midfielder's plight was attracting a wave of sympathy around the world.
Football fans watched in horror as Muamba collapsed after suffering a heart attack during the FA Cup clash.
Millions witnessed the incident at White Hart Lane as Bolton's clash with home team Tottenham Hotspur was screened live on television.
But after a drunken Stacey received a deluge critical replies to his distasteful tweet, he responded with a torrent of racist abuse on the website.
Support for Stacey’s jail sentence was widespread on the day it was handed down, and widely debated on Twitter.
But a significant minority criticised his punishment and claimed it was politically motivated to make an example of him.
His legal team will tomorrow launch an appeal against his sentence at Swansea Crown Court.
The hearing, which is expected to last at least one hour, will go before High Court judge Mr Justice Wyn Williams.
The messages were forwarded to the police by several members of the social network, including former England striker Stan Collymore, himself a victim of abuse on Twitter.
Stacey initially claimed his account had been accessed by somebody else, but later pleaded guilty to racially aggravated harassment, and was sent to prison to ‘reflect the public outrage’ at his comments.
As he spent his first night behind bars, the two teams replayed the fixture that was called off when the midfielder came close to death.
Tottenham and Bolton met again at White Hart Lane, with the home team cruising to a 3-1 victory.
It means Muamba's club are now out of the FA Cup, but this hardly seemed to matter to the fans and players treating the match as a chance to pay tribute to him.
Team-mate Sam Ricketts was seen to wipe a tear from his eye before kick-off. It was a difficult return for the entire Bolton squad, and manager Owen Coyle commended them for their bravery.
Players from both sides wore T-shirts bearing messages of thanks to those who supported Muamba, while the whole of the Tottenham stadium erupted in applause for him.
Stacey, meanwhile, faces expulsion from Swansea University. The third-year biology student had hoped to become a forensic scientist. Describing his tweets, prosecutor Louise Barron told the court: ‘The offence is clearly racially aggravated.
‘There was sustained and gratuitous racism. These were unprovoked comments and persistent abuse. The recipients were disgusted.’
Jailing the student at Swansea Magistrates’ Court, District Judge John Charles said: ‘Not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world, but the whole world were literally praying for Muamba’s life. Your comments aggravated this situation.
‘I have no choice but to impose an immediate custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done.’
Stacey, seen arriving at the court earlier in the morning, posted a series of vile tweets about footballer Fabrice Muamba
Applause: Rival players join in the applause for Muamba after seeing him collapse on the pitch almost two weeks ago
Bolton teammates applaud Muamba during a tribute at the start of their replay against Tottenham last week
Stacey made his comments about the Bolton midfielder while celebrating the Welsh rugby team’s Six Nations grand slam victory earlier this month.
The judge added: ‘You committed this offence while you were drunk and it is clear you immediately regretted it.
'But you must learn how to handle your alcohol better.’
Stacey, from Pontypridd, South Wales, told police following his arrest at his student home in Swansea: ‘I was at the bar when I heard what had happened to Muamba.
'I don’t know why I posted [the comments]. I’m not racist and some of my friends are from different cultural backgrounds.’
He later sent a text message to a friend saying: ‘I said something about Muamba that I shouldn’t have and tweeted back to some people who abused me.
'Getting police on me now which isn’t good at all.’
Solidarity: Bolton's Nigel Reo-Coker (left) and Tottenham's Jermain Defoe shake hands
Upsetting: Fabrice Muamba is treated by medical staff after collapsing. Liam Stacey, 21, posted mocking tweets as the midfielder was treated on the pitch
Another read: ‘Been bawling my eyes out on the phone to my mother for the last hour, really can’t be dealing with this.’
Gareth Jones, defending, said Stacey ‘does not bear [Muamba] any grudge and is glad he is making a good recovery’.
He continued: ‘My client simply lost his head and posted these disgusting comments to the bitter shame of himself and his parents.
'For a moment of madness, his career has now gone.’
Stacey’s father Neale, 49, and mother Hayley, 46, were visibly shocked when the details of his comments were read aloud yesterday.
Jim Brisbane, chief crown prosecutor for CPS Cymru-Wales, said: ‘Racist language is inappropriate in any setting and through any media.
'We hope this case will serve as a warning to anyone who may think that comments made online are somehow beyond the law.’
Friday, March 30, 2012
Back from the dead: Fabrice Muamba tweets miracle first picture of himself 13 days after his heart stopped for 78 minutes
-Footballer says thank you to millions of fans who have supported him