DOHA, Qatar — It was standing-room-only within the media tent at Denmark’s base. The workers had predicted this inflow of curiosity within the participant put up for interview, and when Christian Eriksen quietly slipped in, showing on the prime desk, the room fell silent.
Those in attendance wished to hear concerning the man whose coronary heart stopped for 5 minutes on the pitch over the last main males’s worldwide event, Euro 2020, which was performed in 2021 due to the pandemic. They had been eager to comprehend his journey, one which introduced him from receiving CPR on the pitch in Copenhagen to starring for Manchester United and, now, main one other Danish cost for main honours simply 18 months later, right here in Qatar. And doing it as their greatest participant, once more.
“From the first interview I did, [reaching the World Cup] was my first aim from day one, when I knew about the possibility of being able to come back,” Eriksen stated.
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“Christian is very humble, and a lot of people look up to him,” Denmark assistant coach Morten Wieghorst says. “A lot of people took inspiration from the way he has rebounded.”
You sense he is accomplished speaking about what occurred on the Parken Stadium on June 12, 2021. He calls it the “accident” when requested, however his focus is just being again within the crimson of Denmark. And in accordance to these shut to him, he is higher than ever.
It feels as if everybody related with soccer or Denmark has their tales and recollections of the place they had been when Eriksen collapsed. But some are accomplished speaking about it, both eager to deal with the long run, or reluctant to recall the second, because it’s too uncooked.
Eriksen spoke to the media in Qatar on Saturday, 4 days earlier than Denmark’s opening match towards Tunisia. Their coaching camp is predicated to the west of Doha at Al-Sailiya Sports Club, housed amid huge building initiatives stretching throughout a barren panorama. The highways are barely completed, with some exits main to little greater than rubble.
As Denmark prepare behind the metallic fences and momentary hoardings supposed to block public view, there’s a sole supporter exterior ready to catch a glimpse of his heroes. Victor, who’s come all the best way from Vejle in Denmark, is hoping to see his hero, Thomas Delaney, however as he begins speaking about Eriksen and remembering that day, he will get goose bumps.
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On June 12, Denmark had been enjoying Finland of their opening match of the Euros. It was Day 2 of the event, and a few had been fancying Denmark to make a deep run. They began pretty properly towards Finland, constructing momentum in entrance of a packed crowd in Copenhagen, after which, the “accident” occurred.
In the forty third minute, Eriksen collapsed. The match was halted. He’d stopped respiratory. His teammates fashioned a protecting, concealing circle round him. “I work in a zoo, and we’re all taught first aid. So you could see straight away it was serious,” Victor says, recalling the incident. “At the start, no one saw what happened, as he just fell over. And then when they cut to him and the players were around him, you could see the medics were giving CPR to him and we were like, s—, he’s dead.
“People requested me to clarify what was taking place, and I had to inform them that while you give CPR to an individual, it means they’re useless, that is a reality. Then, thankfully, they acquired him alive once more. It felt like endlessly as we waited for information.”
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Earlier Saturday, another fan, Jorn, recounts his memories over a morning coffee at the Souq Waqif. He had watched the Euros from his home in Arizona because of COVID-19 restrictions but did make it to Qatar for the World Cup. “My buddies had been on the sport however could not see as a lot as I might, as they did not present it on the large screens — and with good purpose,” he says. “But on TV they zoomed in and I used to be like, crap, that does not look good. It was scary stuff.”
Roughly an hour later, after the match stopped, the Danish FA announced Eriksen’s condition had stabilised. He stayed in hospital as his teammates played on, and had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) device fitted. Then, the recovery process began.
At that stage, football was gone from his mind: Eriksen had reportedly told the paramedics in the ambulance to keep his boots, as he would never need them again. But as more tests were carried out, Eriksen was given the green light to return to training. He trained with his old youth side, Odense Boldklub, at the start of December 2021, but his career prospects were uncertain. He was officially still an Inter Milan player, but Serie A rules prohibited him from continuing to play in the league because of the ICD in his chest. The club confirmed his departure by mutual consent on Dec. 17.
At the start of the January transfer window, he trained with the Ajax youth team, the club he joined in 2008 and played for until 2013, when he joined Tottenham. During that time, Eriksen sat for his first interview about what happened and mentioned that he wanted to return to the Denmark squad and play in the World Cup. He needed playing time to do that, and on the final day of the window, Brentford offered him a six-month deal, and it quickly became apparent that Eriksen was just as a good a player as he was before the accident. Some thought he was even better. “He was very humble, calm,” a source told ESPN. “He wasn’t a fierce competitor, however simply very measured and unbelievably gifted.”
Brentford also have a close relationship with CRY Charity (Cardiac Risk in the Young), an understanding forged after the club’s former technical director Robert Rowan died of a cardiomyopathy episode aged 28 in November 2018. “Once he heard about Rob Rowan, he [Eriksen] voluntarily turned up at one of many screening days they organised to help it,” the source says.
Eriksen made his Premier League return on Feb. 26 for Brentford, and on March 26, he returned for Denmark in their match against the Netherlands. He needed just two minutes to score, hitting a beautiful, arching first-time shot off Andreas Skov Olsen’s cross. Later on, he hit the post. “You have to watch out what you say, however he was nearly higher than ever,” Denmark defender Jannik Vestergaard says.
Denmark fan Victor remembers that feeling of seeing Eriksen pull on the red shirt again. “It was a tremendous second,” he says. “We knew he was advantageous and stuff like that, however we had been apprehensive about it, and to see what occurred, and if it might occur once more and stuff like that. It was so bizarre really, however to see him once more, it is simply superb. Every time you see him you’ve got it in your thoughts, and assume it can’t be true — he is enjoying at his greatest degree ever.”
That feeling of “it can’t be true” resonates through his team, too. “He is a high quality participant, and for my part, he has returned even higher than earlier than the accident, and it’s nice to see,” Wieghorst says. “He brings imaginative and prescient, technical high quality and targets to our staff: He is pivotal to our staff, a unbelievable participant.
“It is great to have him back, his teammates love him and he is such an important character. He is inspirational for a lot of fans back home, and for people who do not necessarily follow football, he has been a big inspiration, and that speaks volumes about his character, his strength and love of football.”
Whenever Eriksen talks about what occurred on that day in Copenhagen, he places ideas of his household first. “I think the World Cup is separate. [What happened] gave me an appreciation of being alive and being with my family,” he says. “Everything else was moved to the side. My football has been my career, it still is. So to have the possibility to being back to who I was before was the aim … that was the second aim. My first aim was to be a husband, well, a boyfriend and a dad.”
Now he is again at his third World Cup. His first was again in 2010 as an 18-year-old Ajax prodigy, his second in 2018 as a world-class Tottenham midfielder. He sees his third, succinctly, as “special,” nevertheless it completes a circle for him. In reality, Eriksen feels there is a higher perception within the Denmark facet after their run to the Euros semifinals two summers in the past.
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Then it comes to the query, is he higher than earlier than?
“First of all, I think from the condition-wise, that hasn’t changed,” Eriksen says. “Before the accident, I ran a lot: Maybe I even run less now than I did before. I’m pretty sure I’m the same guy I was before on the football pitch. I think it’s more that people are looking differently and looking from the perspective of what happened. People are looking with different eyes at how I play on the pitch.”
He has kindred spirits right here: Daley Blind, his former Ajax teammate, additionally has an ICD fitted. “I am in regular contact with him,” Blind tells ESPN. “We talked in advance about how special it is that we are both here on the pitch at all! Especially it is for Christian. I’m extremely proud of him!”
Eriksen’s last phrases to Blind earlier than the event had been to want him properly. “I said, see you in the final!”
Denmark followers will probably be conserving a detailed eye on their hero, hoping he can encourage them to their first main event win since 1992. “His mere presence is so important,” Jorn says. “It’s not like he’s a [Diego] Maradona figure, but he has some clout on that team. He’s not a boisterous type of person, which is why we like him. We never see him in the scandalous types of magazines: I think people from Denmark appreciate that.
“Most individuals in Denmark nonetheless have numerous excessive expectations for him to step it up. If he comes by way of and so they get to the quarterfinals … he’ll be the King of Denmark, for positive!”
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Back in the media tent, Eriksen spoke for about 20 minutes, switching between Danish and English, fielding questions on everything from Cristiano Ronaldo, Eriksen’s Inter Milan exit and the standard of France’s midfield in addition to his journey, and him being here at the World Cup. But he’s done talking now. The focus is being back on football’s biggest stage, helping his country progress at yet another major tournament.
Denmark’s journey starts in the mid-afternoon sun on Tuesday. They are looking forward to facing Tunisia for the first time, before another clash with old foes France four days later (having beaten them in their last two outings) and then tackling Australia in their group finale.
“We’re dreaming of one thing huge, however ultimately we’ve got to get there,” Eriksen says. “In soccer phrases, we’ve got to take it one sport at a time, and we’ll see the place we’ll find yourself.
“It’s very special to be at the World Cup for the national team. It’s something I’m really happy to be part of again.”