A Danish journalist recounts the story of how it all happened – and what Uefa means to a country that has united its support for its team.
Christian Eriksen, Denmark’s national footballer, collapsed on the pitch in the Euro 2020 match against Finland a week ago after suffering a cardiac arrest. According to Morten Boesen (Denmark team doctor), his heart stopped beating and he was “gone”. This is the story of Eriksen’s heroics in Copenhagen, and how his life was saved.
5pm GMT Saturday 1 Sunday 2 June The excitement After a year of delay due to Covid-19, 13,790 very excited Denmark fans and Finland supporters are at Parken, the national team’s stadium. My wife and her parents are watching the match at Parken. I’m not among them. This is an unforgettable moment for everyone in Denmark. Parken hosts a national team match with its fans for the first-ever time in over a year. This is the first time Denmark has hosted an international final and they have a strong chance of getting far. However, after 43 minutes of the match, everything seems to have stopped being important.
5.43pm: The collapse After receiving a throw in, Christian Eriksen drops to the ground. He is not near anyone and no one can understand what happened. It becomes quickly apparent that something is not right – very wrong. Eriksen lies motionless.
The instant heroesThe experienced Danish defensive defender Simon Kjaer, his teammates Thomas Delaney, Joachim Maehle and Finland’s goalkeeper Lukas Haradecky are among the first to recognize the severity of the situation. Kjaer rushes over to Eriksen and puts him on his side. He also makes sure that his airway remains open. Later, Eriksen’s team doctors laud Kjaer for his vital role in saving his life.
Next heroesWhile Kjaer tends to Eriksen’s needs, two brothers race ahead. Morten and Anders Boesen are their names. Morten is the team physician, Anders is the stadium doctor. They are also doctors for FC Copenhagen. FC Copenhagen owns and plays at Parken. They are both former elite badminton players.
It is obvious to TV viewers that Eriksen is in serious trouble when they reach him. The defibrillator arrives quickly and Eriksen is revived with the help of the heart massage. Morten stated the next day, “He was gone.” “We began the resuscitation, and we were able to complete it. We were so close to losing him. We got him back after one shock, so that’s pretty fast.
Morten also thanked the staff for their assistance. He said, “The team around me, physio Morten Skjoldager and the stretcher team, as well as the pitch-side physician, physio Morten Skjoldager and the doping control officers, and of course the players, who formed a circle around them.” That made our work conditions ideal.”
5.44pm: The team response and togetherness The protective circle Morten mentioned was created by Kjaer & Delaney. Kjaer and Delaney quickly gathered the rest of the players to provide cover for the medics and calm Eriksen. Their expressions are starkly different from their cool actions. They display fear, terror, and panic. Jonas Wind is weeping. Martin Braithwaite is praying. Delaney is trying to hold on to the circle, but he’s struggling to see and has to cover his face occasionally.
5.45pm The Danish Broadcasting Corporation has stopped showing images of Eriksen’s attempts to revive him. Kjaer sprints to the pitch side where Kasper Schmeichel, Eriksen’s partner, is comforting Sabrina. Sabrina is six months old. Kjaer’s forehead touching Sabrina’s as he holds her head is one of my most heartfelt images.
Kasper Hjulmand (Denmark head coach) praised Kjaer for his heroics. He said the following day, “Our players acted exceptionally.” “To see Simon so far away from Christian at the beginning, yet still being the first player by his side and then turning his attention to Sabrina along avec Kasper… He had a capacity to pull everyone together, communicate, and be a leader. Simon was a role model, as he has always been.
5.48pm- Silence and Panic The first time that crying fans are shown on Danish TV is before the DBC cuts to a stadium overview. Like many Danes I feel like time has stopped. Seconds are minutes. Minutes can become hours. Parken is silent. There are hundreds of times I’ve been there. It is usually a place full of cheers, cheers, and boos. It has never been a place of silence.
It is a doorway to sadness, panic, fear and fright. It grips me as it shows me the lifeless face of a man, and the panicked faces of coaches, players and fans. The defibrillator’s jolting effect on the body is something that I don’t think everyone noticed. My wife says that he is being given a massage to the heart. Although I don’t want it to be too overwhelming for my daughter, it is becoming unbearable. Frankly, I panic. I take her to my house with her husband and her parents and then go into the kitchen. I start to make the dishes, with tears in my eyes and burning feelings in my throat. They are not easy for me.
The stadium is also empty of many fans. It’s too much. My daughter walks into the kitchen, hugs me from behind and shows maturity beyond her years.
5.57pm Eriksen leaves stadiumEriksen gets on a stretcher to leave and is taken to Rigshospitalet. We don’t know if Eriksen is conscious or not, but a photographer snaps a photo of him. We do not know his current condition at this point. We don’t know if he is still alive.
6.10pm- The wait and the incredible Finland fan We wait. We wait. Keep waiting. The stadium announcer insists that people should stay, and will provide more information at 6.45pm. The wait is exhausting. Fear, sadness, and confusion are the dominant emotions.
The Finland fans then do something quite amazing after a while. After a while, they start to chant “Christian” repeatedly and then the Denmark fans catch on and begin chanting “Eriksen”. It goes on for quite a while, giving us hope. It is a beacon of light in a darkened room. It wasn’t just the chanting that was causing the trouble: Eriksen was being carried away by the Finns, who handed their flags over to paramedics to protect him from the fans. It is not enough to say ” Kiitos Suomi“
Eriksen is still in a stable condition. However, I began receiving photos from a friend who took pictures of Eriksen showing that he was awake and moving around. Morten later confirmed that Christian spoke to him before he was taken to the hospital.
6.32pm: The greatest newsFinally, the Danish FA publishes the news that Eriksen has been released from hospital. It is amazing to see the relief. Both my wife and her mother were also overcome with tears and have since cried again. It is joy and relief this time.
7.05pm. The game will be resumed A statement from the Danish FA states that the match will start at 7.30pm. This surprised many Danes. It was not something many expected to happen. The players were offered two options: play the next day at noon or continue playing on the same night.
Over the next few days, anger at Uefa in Denmark grows over the organisation’s insensitivity. Former international Michael Laudrup told TV3+ that “having to make a decision so quickly after a huge emotional event is wrong.” They [Uefa] could have just said, “We won’t be playing more tonight, of course. Then we will examine what options there are.”
7.16pm- Denmark enter the pitch They are applauded by both the fans and the Finland team. Many players from both teams are crying.
7.20pm: The director of football speaksPeter Moller tells us that the players had been in touch with Eriksen. He said they were offered the restart option by Uefa, and they decided to take it through even though they weren’t in a position to play.
At 44 minutes, the match resumes. After the second half, there’s a five minute break. Finland scores 15 minutes into the second period. Kjaer, who is very near Eriksen, as well as Wind, who looks distraught, take off soon after.
Kjaer wouldn’t normally desire to be seen in public, but this is too much. Five days later, he released a statement saying that it was a shock that would stay with him forever. “All that matters is Christian’s OK. “I am proud of the way we behaved as a group.” Eriksen watched the last 10 minutes of TV from his hospital bed. What was the result? Denmark lost. Nobody really cares.
AftermathEriksen was released from the hospital on Friday and walked out with his son in his hand. After a successful procedure, he was able to implant an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) which will shock his heart if it happens again.
Eriksen’s experience with cardiac arrest will likely help other people. The foundation Tryg Fonden has defibrillators placed all across the country so that people can receive a brief course in how to use them. When someone dials 999 to report a cardiac arrest, the information goes to all registered users in the area. This program has been signed up by over 2000 Danes in the past week.
This week The country has been shaken by the incident. Eriksen is a beloved Danish citizen. He is a true team player. He has never been flashy but is kind and generous, and he often gives his time to charity work. This is a tremendous relief.
Uefa is angry You can play on the next day or the next night. This decision should not have been made by young traumatised men. Hjulmand stated that he regretted not ordering them to board the bus, but that he was also very emotional. Yes, there are protocols. Good leadership means making decisions that go beyond those protocols.
Many Danes have also taken this as a wake up call, which has been my case. Life is very fragile. What about us all?
On Thursday Denmark played Belgium. Half-time was 1-0 in their favor, but Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne came on and made it more difficult for us. Belgium won 2-1, but Denmark showed great spirit in a match that brought us closer together. We are proud of the staff and players, and how they have behaved. While the team can still make progress, no one is really concerned about it. We think about what is most important: Christian Eriksen lives.