Football & Management

Christian Eriksen: Football as a Force for Good

Fabrice Muamba sums it up best with his words, “whatever else happens in this tournament, the best result has already happened if Christian emerges from this in good health.”

Andrea Bocelli’s Nessum Dorma performance opened the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico with football fans eagerly anticipating a month-long football fest. That the competition can hold, given the global uncertainty around sports is heartening. The icing on the cake is that a small percentage of fans can be at the stadium. The opening match saw Italy beat Turkey, scoring three goals.

It was events in Copenhagen where Denmark was playing Finland in their opening match that gave everyone cause for concern. At nearly half time, Danish and Inter Milan midfielder, Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch. The game was immediately suspended as the medical team hurried to attend to him. Thankfully, reports confirm he is communicating and has been stabilised.

But those critical minutes saw many reliving other similar incidents – at the Lagos national Stadium in 1989 when Samuel Okwaraji collapsed on the pitch while playing for Nigeria; in 2003 when Cameroonian Marc-Vivien Foé suddenly collapsed during the Confederations Cup semi-final. Sadly, they both lost their lives but are remembered with great affection.

In 2012, Fabrice Muamba, then a Bolton Wanderers player, survived after collapsing on the pitch during a match. The obvious common thread is the suddenness of the medical emergency in otherwise fit and healthy athletes. However, it is also an apt reminder that sports can be a unifying force. At a time when the headlines have been about fans booing their teams when they take the knee before matches, to strengthen the call for an end to racism, this reminds us of how intertwined we all are; how there is more that unites us than that which divides us.

During those crucial moments, Eriksen’s teammates formed a shield around him while the medical team attended to him. Despite what must have been a traumatic experience for them all, they came together to protect him. The Denmark goalkeeper, Schmeichel, comforted Eriksen’s partner. Fans of both teams could be seen praying. This was bigger than country rivalry.

Also Read: It’s a Wrap. Bring on the Euros

Footballers from around the world sent well wishes on social media platforms. His former teammates, other premier league players, female footballers, and ex-players. Lukaku, his Inter Milan teammate, paid tribute to Eriksen after scoring his goal for Belgium.

The Finnish national team tweeted: “The thoughts of the Finnish men’s national team, the Finnish Football Association and the Finnish football family are with Eriksen, his relatives and the Danish team.” From Spurs, his former team, came the message: “Get well soon, Christian. The whole Spurs family is with you.” Positive message followed positive message.

With the announcement that Eriksen was breathing and speaking, both sets of fans in the stadium cheered. The game resumed. Credit must go to the Denmark side for being able to get back on the pitch after such an emotional upheaval. Despite losing the game 1-0, they come away with their heads held high.

Times like this give us all cause to reflect on life and those things that are important to us. Despite the love for football and the near fanatical support for club or country, it is also a reminder of our humanity.  Fans, countries, players, media and football association executives, everyone was united in wishing Christian Eriksen well. The importance of leadership is brought into focus: the referee suspending the game, the senior team members taking control in an emergency, the Denmark coach encouraging his players after the game resumed among some of the examples to list here.

Much has been said about whether the game should have gone on, but this is not the time to criticise UEFA. The football family came together on a day that could have ended very differently. For that we can celebrate as we continue to wish Christian Eriksen a full recovery.

Fabrice Muamba sums it up best with his words, “whatever else happens in this tournament, the best result has already happened if Christian emerges from this in good health.”

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