Grateful Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba thanked the doctors who saved his life today as he received a university award in his honour.

In cap and gown, the player accepted the honorary doctorate from the University of Bolton on behalf of the people who miraculously kept him alive after he "died" on the pitch from a cardiac arrest.

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Millions of TV viewers watched medics desperately battling to keep the Bolton Wanderers midfielder alive after he suddenly collapsed during a live FA Cup game against Spurs in March.

The 24-year-old's heart stopped for 78 minutes, but emergency first aid and hospital doctors combined to save his life.

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Muamba, accepting the award at the university's graduation day, said: "I would like to thank the University of Bolton for this award of an Honorary Doctorate. I am very humbled to accept it on behalf of all the amazing men and women who combined to save my life, the paramedics and medical teams of Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham, ambulance personnel, and of course the consultants, doctors and nurses at The London Chest Hospital, my family and I owe them all so much."

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It is not the first time Muamba has battled against the odds: his family fled war in the Democratic Republic of Congo before seeking asylum in the UK.

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Despite arriving in London aged 11 unable to speak English, he went on to achieve 10 GCSEs and three A-levels and joined Arsenal FC's youth academy in 2002 before moving to Birmingham and then Bolton in 2008.

But the footballer said he still does not know if he will be able to resume his professional career.

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"I'm getting stronger every day. I'm far away from being back on the football pitch," he said.

"I really, really hope, by the grace of God, that I'll be back on the pitch but I'm just grateful to the university for this doctorate and I receive it on behalf of everybody who helped me to survive the cardiac arrest."Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba, whose heart stopped for 78 minutes after he collapsed during a live televised match, has received an Honorary Doctorate.

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