In the days following Nouri's collapse, Ajax said he'd suffered "serious and permanent" brain damage.

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Appie Nouri collapsed during a match in July 2017

Midfielder was put into an induced coma

Nouri was left brain damaged

CNN  — 

The family of a promising Dutch footballer who was left brain damaged after collapsing during a game in 2017 say they have been encouraged by small improvements in his condition.

Abdelhak “Appie” Nouri was placed in an induced coma at a hospital in Austria after collapsing during Ajax’s preseason friendly match against Werder Bremen on July 8 as the Dutch club prepared for the 2017/2018 season.

In the days following his collapse, Ajax said that Nouri’s brain damage was “serious and permanent” and that the then 20-year-old had no chance of a full recovery.

However, Nouri’s 25-year-old brother Abderrahim told Holland’s national broadcaster NOS on Sunday that “there is communication.”

“Not in the beginning. He was just in coma and had his eyes closed. Slowly he was waking up a bit more and more,” he said.

“But since December and January, his awareness has become a little better and there is a form of communication. When you asked him something, he opened his mouth or confirmed he understood by raising an eyebrow.”

A bright career in football had been predicted for Nouri.

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Nouri played 15 league and cup games for Ajax in 2016-17, scoring one goal in a Dutch Cup tie. Born in Amsterdam to parents of Moroccan descent, he also played for Holland’s Under-15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 teams.

After Nouri collasped his family were told he wouldn’t be able to talk, eat or move independently because he had been starved of oxygen.

“The doctor in Austria told us the diagnosis,” Abderrahim told NOS. “Your brother or son will be like this, this and this and won’t be able to do this, this this. That was a real shock.

“Of course, I believe in science and I believe in what I see, but if we talk about the future, I think: time will teach us. We believe he is capable of anything. Nothing is difficult for him. And we keep our hopes up. For people from outside that won’t understand: you just need to keep hope.”

"Here beats a Ajax heart," reads a banner in the garden in front of the Nouri house in Amsterdam on July 12, 2017.

‘Ups and downs’

The player’s family are currently renovating and adapting a house for the former Ajax star close to the parental home in Amsterdam.

“If I compare it with before, I would say it goes much better than before, and then I mean neurologically,” added Abderrahim.

“Neurologically, he is much better than before. Physically, it’s a little more difficult and we see a little deterioration but that’s pure because he is not moving. Sometimes he comes out of bed to sit in his wheelchair. That was more difficult before. But he has ups and downs. His resistance and immune system are very low. It swings a lot.

“Since day one there has been a difference from when we see him compared to the doctors. In the beginning it was true that we were not allowed to stay with him for a long time, as these are the hospital’s rules. But the doctors saw that we as a family had a lot of influence on Abdelhak.

“He became calmer. He recognized us. And he was quieter with us then with the doctors. You reassure him, he hears a familiar voice. Especially if my mum and dad are with him. We’re staying 24/7 with him, because it does him good.”

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Dutch club Ajax did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

In June the club admitted to providing ‘inadequate’ on-field medical treatment for Nouri following his collapse.

“We recognize our responsibility and liability for the consequences of this,” the Dutch club’s general manager Edwin van der Sar told reporters. “For a long time we were convinced that Abdelhak had received the best possible care on the field.”