‘Big men were crying all around us’: Christian Eriksen’s collapse at Euro 2020 is remembered as a ’45 minute horror show’ nearly three months on from the episode that stunned Denmark… but there is new respect for a team who have earned hero status
- Christian Eriksen made a remarkable recovery from a cardiac arrest on June 12
- The football world was stunned as he collapsed while playing for Denmark
- Denmark fans were silent in bars and pubs, with grown men left in tears
- One described it as a 45-minute horror show’ as they feared the worst
- But Denmark is in awe of the team for their heroic efforts to protect Eriksen
In the moments after Christian Eriksen’s collapse during Denmark’s opening game of Euro 2020, a father paced around Sankt Jakobs Plads, a quaint square from where, beyond a church and some old floodlights, you can see Parken Stadium.
Peter Mondrup had left his family apartment above the square and was now pondering the imponderable.
‘I was mentally preparing how to tell my kids that Christian had died,’ says the 45-year-old, whose youngest boy is nine.
Christian Eriksen’s collapse at Euro 2020 has been remembered as a ‘horror show’ in Denmark
Fans were stunned to silence after the country’s playmaker collapsed to the turf on June 12
‘How I can inform them what has happened to their hero? How can I tell them what they witnessed had the worst possible outcome?’
Half an hour earlier, he and his friend Lars Janus and their families were in front of the television when Eriksen, just a few hundred yards away, had stumbled and fallen to the turf. He had suffered a cardiac arrest.
‘At first we smiled, it looked like he had tripped,’ says Peter. ‘Then you realise something is seriously wrong, it was in his eyes.
‘Right away I sent my youngest children out of the room, I wanted to protect them. The older children stayed. We all had tears in our eyes. You cannot underestimate how popular Christian is here.’
Devastated supporters watched on in tears and the memory will leave a lasting impact
Unlike in the UK, Danish television cut away from the images of Eriksen being treated by paramedics after the horror of the initial chest compressions. Peter and Lars came down to the square in search of news.
They are talking to Sportsmail now from the beer garden of PS Bar & Grill. So what scene were they met with on that sunny, Saturday afternoon of June 12?
‘Silence,’ says Lars. ‘The only thing you could hear was the television in here. It was surreal. The “Eriksen” shirts everywhere made it all the more shocking.’
For Peter, the image will never leave him.
‘Big men, they were crying all around us, completely crying. To have seen the heart massage, argh… it was not good, it was devastating.
Those watching the scenes feared the worst when Eriksen was covered with a white sheet
‘But then there was no update, nothing.’
‘Honestly?’ says Lars. ‘We thought he was dead, we thought he was completely gone. If they knew he was alive when he finally left the stadium, they should have told us on national TV, it was wrong that they did not.’
‘But they did not want to give false hope. When he was brought away with the white sheets around him, I said to Lars, “He is definitely not awake. If he is alive, why not show him?”.
‘My hopes were really, really low. The longer time went on with no good news, it was getting worse and worse.’
Denmark players emerged with huge praise for forming a ring around their fallen team-mate
Eriksen made a remarkable recovery but there is no news on whether he will play football again
Just yards away, Nathan Rowe, originally from Brighton, was serving at the outdoor bar.
‘It went from a noisy crowd to being able to hear a penny drop,’ says the 31-year-old. ‘Just like that, it was complete silence. Everyone was grabbing their mouths.
’I was just stood here, no one bought any drinks. Some people walked away, they could not watch. Everyone was checking their phones. There was confusion.’
A short distance from here down Osterbrogade, fans in the bars around Trianglen St. Metro would have seen the ambulance taking Eriksen to Rigshospitalet. Unbeknown to them, he was conscious.
The episode brought the country together after news Eriksen was alive and stable in hospital
Finally, a message was displayed on screen by the national broadcaster – Eriksen was alive and stable in hospital.
‘I remember the sound, a massive intake of air as the news appeared followed by cheering and clapping,’ says Nathan. ‘It was like we’d been in a horror movie for 45 minutes before that. I was suddenly busy again, there was just sheer relief.’
Then came confirmation that the game against Finland would continue. Denmark duly lost 1-0.
‘There was a lot of upset and anger at being made to play,’ says Nathan. ‘We were hosting around 250 people who went to the game. Only around 30 came back afterwards. No one wanted to drink. That night was eery.’
But from the horror came hope and unity, in Denmark and beyond.
‘Suddenly, we felt the whole world come together,’ says Peter. ‘Sometimes, we realise we are more alike than we would normally think. We have Brexit and our differences, but when you see something like that, everyone is the same, everything else disappears.’
Denmark’s squad will be remembered as heroes as they prepare for their World Cup qualifiers
Denmark made it to semi-finals only to be beaten by England at Wembley. They return to Parken for the first time since on Wednesday evening when they host Scotland in a World Cup qualifier.
There is still no word on whether Eriksen will play again, but Lars says: ‘What happened to Christian reinforced the support for the national team. We saw how they protected him on the field. They are heroes now.
‘I was in the stadium for the Russia game (won 4-1 to qualify for second round). It was, without doubt, the most emotional match I ever saw.
‘There is new love for the team, a more powerful support. There is extra respect for those players.
‘It will be a magical night to be back there again.’
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