AJAX star Abdelhak ‘Appie’ Nouri has miraculously woken up after two years and nine months in a coma.
The 22-year-old Dutch ace collapsed on the pitch in July 2017 after suffering a cardiac arrhythmia attack.
He sustained severe and permanent brain damage as a result of the incident.
Nouri is now awake and “sleeps, eats, frowns and burps but is very dependent”, according to his brother Abderrahim.
He said that the footballer is “doing well” and lives in a house specially built for him.
Abderrahim told Dutch TV show De Wereld Draait Door: “He has not been home very long, we take care of him there now. I must say that since he is at home it is going much better than before in the hospital.
“He is aware of where he is, he is back in a familiar environment with his family.
“He’s no longer in a coma. He’s very bedridden and still very dependent on us.”
The pair communicate not through words or signals but through raising their eyebrows.
Perhaps the most heartwarming news of all is that he can watch football again, and even reacts to it.
His father Mohammed said Appie – who joined the Dutch club aged seven – and his family had been through a “serious ordeal”.
He added: “We have to take care of him at our very best. We try to do a lot ourselves.”
The news is all the more incredible given the fact the family said in July 2017 that he had virtually no chance of recovery and was in a permanent vegetative state.
Abderrahim said back then: “He cannot walk, cannot talk, he does not recognise us, does not know who we are. He does not feel anything, he does not hear anything.
“According to the doctor he can never do all that again, he will never heal.”
But incredibly, Appie, who made his debut for the senior team aged 19 in September 2016, is back communicating and spending time with his loved ones.
And even more remarkable is the fact he played a part in former Ajax star Frenkie de Jong’s arrival at the Johan Cruyff ArenA and subsequent transfer to Barcelona.
De Jong said: “He talked to me a lot in a summer.
“When I sat with him, his mother came in. She then asked Appie, ‘Appie, where should Frenkie go? To Barcelona?’ As soon as she said that, his eyebrow rose. That was a very special moment.”
Nouri was considered the next Ajax superstar and was named in the team of the tournament at the Under-19 European Championship in 2016.
He collapsed during a pre-season friendly against Werder Bremen in the Austrian Alps.
Before the match at the small Lindenstadion Hippach, around 45 miles from Innsbruck, Appie, who played as a No 10, had complained of stomach pains and not slept well.
The heat was stifling that day, but still he played, replacing new Chelsea signing Hakim Ziyech at half-time.
It was in the 72nd minute that he slowed, gently lowered himself to the ground, then turned onto his back and stared into the sky.
It took 10 seconds for the referee to realise that he was down and needed urgent medical help.
Another 10 seconds passed before the Ajax physio arrived. Then, 35 seconds after he had gone down, the club doctor was alongside Nouri.
When Ajax striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar panicked, the Werder Bremen players reacted in shock and their own team doctor rushed onto the pitch to help too.
Pictures showed a screen being put up around Nouri as they attempted to help him – but clearly they were fearing the worst.
Local doctor Daniel Rainer rushed to the stadium to help too and said that after 13 minutes of treatment Nouri had a heartbeat and was breathing.
Nouri was then flown urgently to a nearby hospital by helicopter and placed in an induced coma.
Ajax admitted in June 2018 that their care of Nouri had been “inadequate”.
Club medics spent too much time trying to clear the stricken footballer’s airways, rather than checking his heartbeat and circulation.
Manchester United legend Edwin van der Sar, Ajax’s CEO, said at the time: “Had this happened, it’s possible that Abdelhak would have come out in a better condition. This isn’t certain, but it’s a possibility.
“We recognise our responsibility and liability for the consequences of this.”
Nouri was flown back to Holland for further treatment. He smiled in December 2017 after a football was placed in his hands while he went through rehab in a specialist centre in the southern city of Tilburg.
That now appears to have been the catalyst for his recovery and path to, ultimately, a better standard of living.
His brother Abderrahim put it best when he said: “Sometimes he is emotional, but often there is also a smile. That does us good. That makes you really appreciate a smile.”