The Euro was billed as the world’s biggest coming-out party after over a year spent in total or partial lockdown, and close to four million Covid deaths.
But, just minutes before the half-time whistle in the second game of the football championship, the sense of despair that has enveloped the globe since March 2020 closed in again when Denmark’s midfield superstar Christian Eriksen suddenly collapsed close to the touchline before thousands of home fans at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium on Saturday in the Euro’s Day 2 Group B game versus Nordic neighbour Finland.
Everyone on the field, in the stands, as well as millions of TV viewers knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. Eriksen hadn’t been brought down in a tackle – in fact, there was no one within touching distance of him when he fell face first while running to collect a throw-in.
The game was immediately stopped by referee Anthony Taylor who signalled for urgent medical attention. Doctors rushed to the spot and a hush fell over the stadium as players prayed, and fans held each other and cried. Eriksen was given chest compression as his teammates formed a protective shield around Eriksen, the backbone of Denmark’s midfield for over a decade and a familiar figure for EPL fans in India.
The next 15 minutes were some of the most agonising ever in a globally televised event in recent decades. Nobody seemed to understand what exactly had gone wrong. Everyone looked horrified and helpless at the same time. In the most wretched of years when a pandemic continues to sweep over the globe, many spectators seemed to fear the worst and started crying in the stands. Some leaned on each other trying to gain solace as the player was taken to the hospital.
Eriksen’s disconsolate wife Sabrina Kvist Jensen, wearing an Eriksen T shirt, came to the pitch and was consoled by Denmark’s captain and goalkeeper. The gloomy global mood was best reflected by one of the trending hashtags, Please God. Thousands of prayers were posted as tweets.
Soon photographs started emerging on social media showing the footballer, eyes open, holding his head. But it was only when Danish football association posted a tweet saying, “Christian Eriksen is awake and is undergoing further examinations at Rigshospitalet,” that many felt their nerves calmed, if not entirely restored.
The prayers of millions seemed to have been answered. About two hours later, the game resumed and Finland upset Denmark 1-0.