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Ajax midfielder Abdelhak Nouri Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: After days of endless coronavirus-related stories, the world of football smiled early on Friday after hearing the good news of Ajax footballer Abdelhak Nouri’s first steps towards recovery after nearly three years.

The 22-year-old had been confined to a bed since collapsing during a friendly against Werder Bremen during Ajax’s pre-season tour of the Austrian Alps way back in July 2017. The young midfielder, who suffered permanent brain damage following that cardiac arrhythmia attack on the pitch, was put into a medically induced coma as doctors tried to stabilise him in hospital.

By then, he had sustained severe damage to the brain after which he was being treated at home till he woke up a year later, but unable to move or communicate by himself. Since then, his family has been looking after him at a specially set-up home to cater to the player’s needs.

During a special edition of Dutch TV show De Wereld Draait Door, Abdelhak’s brother Abderrahim revealed that the former Ajax prospect is now able to sit up, watch football with the rest of his family and convey emotions. “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 just awake. He sleeps, he sneezes, he eats, he burps, but it’s not like he gets out of bed. He’s bedridden and still very dependent on us,” Abderrahim told the show.

“On his good days, there is a form of communication, for example, confirmation with his eyebrows or a smile. But you notice that he can’t last that very long. We talk to him like he’s not sick. We take him into our conversations and we watch football with him in the living room. You notice that he likes that very much. He often shows emotions. Sometimes he is emotional, but often there is also a smile. That does us good. That makes you really appreciate a smile,” he added.

Born in Amsterdam of Moroccan descent, Nouri rose through the youth ranks at the Johan Cruyff Arena before making it into the senior squad in 2015. He had nine first team appearances with the Ajax team till his career was cut short on that fateful day in the Alps on July 8, 2017. Such was his appeal as a youngster that he was named as one of the best 40 youth players by The Guardian in 2014.