It was a bright sunny day during the Euro 2020 football tournament last June, and the Parkden Stadium pitch was a lush green with a beautiful blue sky above. The two sets of raucous fans were in fine mood and voice and were cheering on their teams Denmark and Finland. But suddenly it all went eerily quiet. Denmark’s midfielder Christian Eriksen had collapsed and lay motionless near the touchline. He had suffered a cardiac arrest and according to the Denmark team doctor Morten Boesen - who rushed on to the scene along with several other doctors and paramedics - he “was gone”.
It was one of the most horrific incidents in sports and the 50,000 fans at the Copenhagen venue feared the worst when the physicians began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions. Eriksen was carried off on a stretcher and quickly taken to hospital. After a lengthy delay the match restarted but the players on either side were visibly upset at what they had just witnessed. The Danes went on to lose 1-0 but all thoughts were for the stricken Eriksen. People were praying that he was alive but all that came through after the immediate aftermath were rumours. Some said he’d died. Others said they saw him raise a hand as he was taken away. Then finally it was announced that he was out of danger and stable and there was huge relief all round.
The former Tottenham star underwent several emergency operations and although his life was saved, it came with a price. He was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) – a small device that can send an electrical impulse to the heart if required. Playing football again at the time was not even a consideration and many felt he would have to retire.
His Italian club Inter Milan had to cancel his contract because Serie A rules do not allow players with a pacemaker to compete - but Eriksen was not ready to call it a day and so began an incredible comeback to the game he loves.
First he went back to his youth club in Denmark, Odense Boldklub, to start some light training. It went well and he felt good, so good in fact that he felt ready to step it up with former team Ajax where the physical activity became more intense. He came through that with flying colours and was given the green light by doctors to play again and began looking for a new club - but who would want to take a chance on the playmaker following his ordeal?
The answer was Brentford and on Saturday February 26, he was given a standing ovation by the 20,000 fans inside the Brentford Community Stadium as he made his return to competitive football as a second half substitute against Newcastle 259 days after suffering that heart attack.
The Bees lost 2-0, not that the result was on anyone’s mind at the full time whistle. Just as Denmark’s loss to Finland last June felt irrelevant, so too did Brentford’s defeat - but this time the mood was totally different. It was a joyous occasion and seeing Eriksen back playing gave everyone a huge lift. The fans hailed a sight that felt impossible on that grim day at the Euros last summer. “I’m one happy man,” he said. “To go through what I’ve been through, being back is a wonderful feeling. It’s been very special since day one.”
The West London outfit will need to pick up form if they are to avoid being dragged in a relegation fight and now with a fit-again Eriksen in the side pulling the strings and creating chances for the likes of Ivan Toney, they should be ok.
But let's put football matters aside for the moment - it's just great to see Eriksen back and we wish him the very best.