Euro 2020: Danish footballer Christian Eriksen’s trauma a lesson to be learnt for UEFA-Sports News , Firstpost

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Football associations eternal greed to milk their footballers to the inch of their lives to generate revenue, reared its ugly head yesterday. Football is the most important of the least important things and maybe this is a reality check on people who are responsible design the gruelling football calendars.

“You know, sometimes we are not prepared for adversity. When it happens sometimes, we are caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up. Sometimes, we don’t know what to do when adversity takes over. And the advice I have for all of us in when you have that kind of problem, is to say,” Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” – Cannonball Adderley, intro to Mercy, Mercy Mercy

I understood from the quiver in my seasoned sports editor’s voice as he briefed me last night, that the incident has left him deeply weighted. The burden of the collective trauma, watching Christian Eriksen collapse face first, weighs heavy on us all. The Danish international lost consciousness whilst playing football for what seemed like some of the lengthiest 10 minutes of our lives. Few longer than Barry Glendenning, assigned to a minute-to-minute report.

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In the 42nd minute, the Finland defenders hacked another ball clear as they were doing for most of the night. Eriksen went to collect the ball from the touchline, then fell unconscious. At a distance, suddenly aware of the gravity of the situation, Finland’s Joel Pohjanpalo held his own head screaming internally.

Barry Glendenning wrote, “6:10 pm; My hands are shaking. It’s difficult to type. I’ll bring you any confirmed news as and when it comes. Come on, Christian fight!”

In the stands, in front of their screens, people were weeping. A man was fighting for his life in front of our eyes. The world was watching.

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The incident happened in the match between Denmark and Finland at the Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark. The game was paused then resumed after consultations with the Danish management.

Between then and that, Christian Eriksen was transported to the Rigshospitalet, where he is reported to be stable and conscious. Between then and that, there was an eternity. We are here to talk about that splice of eternity. Because between then and that, is where we felt a sense of shared vulnerability and an indescribable investment of raw emotion.

All of us were ill-prepared to be asking the kind the questions we now have to first grapple, batten down with words then ask. So pardon me, if I have to use poetry as a crutch to address what this means to us as not just fans, journalists but also human beings. Because poets deal with the full smorgasbord of human mortality much more often than we sports journalists do.

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Poet Mary Oliver once wrote, “there’s nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong may save a life, even possibly your own.” The immediacy of the emergency response saved Christian Eriksen’s life. But also saved our lives, those who felt complicit in the viewing of a tragedy, felt a voyeuristic guilt by association.

Finland won the match but that was not important. Not even for the Finland fans. The Finnish spectators joined in the singing of the name of Eriksen in a call and response with the Danish fans. All of them. A harrowing display of bravery and hope in the backdrop despite the scenes in the foreground.

A chant in the form of prayers, and a prayer in the shape of a toe-curled plea, hands joined, hands on heads, stark, full stomachs felt hostile, curdling with emotional nausea. Faces contorted faced with the inability to process the images we were assailed with.

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It was like being witness to a house burning down in front of our eyes, knowing fullly well someone’s trapped inside, and still being helpless. It’s perverse viewing.

The air was cornered in one side of the stadium, tipping the earth’s axis by that just bit, under the weight of all those prayers. Finnish team escorted medical personnel onto the pitch, and were the vigilant first responders, flaring up concern. Referee Anthony Taylor was prompt to call for medical attention. Surrounding the medical personnel trying to revive Eriksen with chest compressions was a defensive formation.

The corner where Eriksen was lying down was surrounded by his teammates in a circle. A regiment of insurgent Greek myrmidons will find it hard to penetrate that solid circle. It was before long Eriksen’s partner ran onto the pitch, inconsolable, bawling with tears.

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Kasper Schmeichel held her by her shoulder and affirmed his towering sense of belief onto her.

Surrounding the medical personnel trying to revive Eriksen with chest compressions was a defensive formation. AP

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Team captain Simon Kjaer secured Eriksen’s neck, and stopped his collapsed tongue from choking his windpipe. This Denmark team displayed a mandatory magnificence steeled with commendable humanity. It was a field of human consciousness. The kind of loyalty that redeems the world and maybe even football.

Mark Jones of the Mirror wrote, “Denmark’s players were there for Eriksen and they were there for us too. Kjaer’s initial action has saved his teammate’s life. At the base, most stripped-back football is still just this. It’s being there for your mates especially in their darkest hour.”

The hour was dark, sullen and revelatory.

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It was a wall of quiet dignity shielding their teammate from the vulture eyes of broadcast TRPs, even as the stadium fell silent. Millions of football fans all around the globe were contemplating with their own mortality vicariously as the broadcast was allowed to continue — scarring the mind’s eye of a million unsuspecting, who like my editor tuned in to just watch good football in a bad year.

Poet Charles Bukowski wrote while reviewing Doug Blazek’s Skull Juices, “It is not easy to realize that you are dying in your twenties. It is much easier not to know that you are dying in your twenties as is the case with most young men, almost all young men, their faces already oaken slabs, shined puke. They only imagine that death might happen in some jungle war of nobody’s business. Blazek can see death and life in a shabby piece of curling wallpaper, in a roach wandering through the beercans of a tired and sad and rented kitchen.”

We were collectively Blazek last night. Eye to eye with near-death and life on the far corner of football pitch, almost dying in the line of duty.

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Gary Lineker, the host of the BBC broadcast said, “In my 25 years in the job, that was the most distressing and emotional broadcast I’ve been involved with.” His guests, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Scott, Micah Richards were in shock. In pubs across Europe and elsewhere, the ice melt into their drinks.

Fabrice Muamba, whose heart stopped for 70 plus minutes on a fateful day in 2012 in a FA Cup match between Bolton and Tottenham tweeted, “Please God.” Ian Wright tweeted, “Cut to the studio, FFS!”

Journalist, Julian Laurens in trying to sum up the situation said, “It is in the relation to the images we saw as a spectator, as a journalist, that we must ask some questions, such as — What should we have a right to see? What should we see? What should we report? But also questions like, why do we feel so strongly about it?”

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“As journalists,” Laurens said, “we have the responsibility to harden our eyes, but never our heart.”

If we are hardening our eyes at something, let it be the fact that Belgium vs Russia was allowed to be played later in the night despite a deathly serious matter.

BBC spokesperson said in a statement: “We apologise to anyone who was upset by the images broadcast. In-stadium coverage is controlled by UEFA as the host broadcaster, and as soon the match was suspended we took our coverage off air as possible.”

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Football associations eternal greed to milk their footballers to the inch of their lives to generate revenue, reared its ugly head yesterday. Football is the most important of the least important things and maybe this is a reality check on people who are responsible design the gruelling football calendars.

Lastly, it is in the words of Agha Shahid Ali, another one of my favourite poets, that I find what Christian Eriksen must be wanting to say to those above-mentioned administrators; “I am still alive, alive to learn from your eyes, that I become a veil and I am all you see.”

Whether UEFA learns is anybody’s guess. If not, then all we can say is, “Mercy, mercy, mercy.”

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