He fled the Democratic Republic of Congo, fearful of retribution during the bloody civil war as his father was allied to President Mobutu.
He arrived in a snowstorm at Heathrow, a political refugee soon enrolled at a school in north-east London. He was 11 and couldn’t speak a word of English.
But Muamba could play football and on Sunday his journey takes him into a European Under-21 match against the talented youth of Spain at Herning, here in Denmark.
So when times are hard in his career, such as when Arsenal allowed him to leave, even engagements such as this one when he will be sweating copiously to dispossess Bojan, Mata and company, the Bolton Wanderers midfielder can keep things in perspective. He has seen too much sadness, heard too much gunfire.
He has lost close relatives like his uncle, who was murdered.
“I don’t really speak about it that much,’’ said Muamba, a highly intelligent soul whose darting eyes betray the horror he has witnessed.
“It’s Africa, isn’t it? That’s the type of continent it is. There is always dramas, wars and stuff. My father was an adviser for the prime minister. Dad was involved in the political situation but had to move away, to come to England.’’
As the rebels moved into Kinshasa, Marcel Muamba had to move quickly, telling the nine-year-old Fabrice that he was just going out. Three years elapsed before they were reunited.
“When he moved, he had to help me and mum get to England. If I had stayed, they would have seen us as an easy target to get information from the regime people, to use it against us. My mum, dad and siblings all live in London now.”
Muamba has never been back to the land of his birth. Although tensions have eased, he remains suspicious of the reception. So he admitted to being surprised when the DR Congo FA contacted him at Bolton last year, inviting him to represent the country. He sensed a trap.
“I just thought it best not to get involved. Because of how my family situation is back home, it is quite difficult for me to go back. They would see me as an easy target, to get rid of me. I have got family but they have had to change their identity in order to be safe.
“I can go back but secretly. I’m going in the summer out of curiosity, to see what I might be able to give back. I will have to go back via another country and in that way. Dad won’t go back at all.”
What a journey. Muamba will reflect “on how far I have come” when God Save the Queen pipes up on Sunday. “England is my adopted country. People have helped me, welcomed me with open arms and given me this opportunity. I’m earning a more than decent living and leading a comfortable life. I’m very appreciative.
“When I look back on the journey, I see how lucky I am. I’m not the most talented footballer but I know what I can do and what I need to do to stay where I am. I just keep myself to myself and enjoy what I have and hopefully move on to better things.
"I want to enjoy all life can give to me. What I have experienced is what keeps me going and gets me out of whatever difficulty I face.”
Relentless appliance defines him on and off the field. A native Lingala and French speaker, Muamba worked hard to become fluent in English.
Determined to maintain his education, he will start an Open University course in accountancy in September.
His footballing journey began at Arsenal under Arsène Wenger and now accelerates under Owen Coyle at Bolton. “Owen gets involved and plays with us in training.
Arsène doesn’t get involved like that. Owen is more a people’s person. Arsène is just Arsène, very strategic. You have to sit down and talk to him to understand the kind of man he is.”
Well trained by Wenger, Steve Bruce at Birmingham City and Coyle, Muamba knows that his footballing journey could run into a substantial roadblock in Herning.
“Spain have a very good team, similar to the senior: pass, pass, pass. We have to hit them on the counter. The boys feel fresh and ready to go.”
He understood why Wenger stopped Jack Wilshere from attending the Euros for fear of exhaustion. “I met him at Bolton and he was good. He has progressed to be very good. Jack has been awesome this year. He’s not here but we have a bunch of boys chomping at the bit.’’
Some, like Muamba, remember their last under-21 journey in Scandinavia, reaching the Malmo final against the Germans of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Manuel Neuer.
“Before the game we had loads of messages in the dressing room from David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, all the senior boys. Then to come in after being beaten 4-0 ... that changing room was not the best place to be.”
Muamba has been in far worse places. He’s been in harm’s way.
“It’s been a long journey. To sit here and speak English like this – I’m quite impressed with myself!” Some journey, some man.