Another Denmark player has expressed disappointment at the options presented to his team to resume their Euro 2021 match in the wake of witnessing a teammate suffer cardiac arrest on the field Saturday.
Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field before halftime of a group stage match against Finland and needed to be resuscitated by medics using a defibrillator and CPR. He was eventually stabilized and transferred to a hospital, and 90 minutes later his teammates resumed the match after speaking to Eriksen. Denmark lost the match 1-0.
Eriksen’s teammate Martin Braithwaite, who started the match and was on the field for the incident, said his team was presented with two options to resume the match and “none of those choices were good.”
“We had two choices from UEFA, to go out and play the match immediately or play the next day at noon,” he told media at a press conference on Monday. “None of those choices were good. We took the lesser of two evils to finish the match.
“Many of the players were not in a condition to play this match. We were in a different space. It was not our wish. Those were the only options we had. We had two options and in that situation we were told we had to make a decision. That is all I can say on that.”
The account corroborates the one provided by Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand.
“Looking back, it was the wrong thing to make the decision between the two scenarios to the players in this case,” Hjulmand said. “Players were in a shock condition. Players didn’t really know yet if they had lost their best friend. And they have to decide between these two things.”
In the time after Eriksen was confirmed to be stable, UEFA announced that a decision had been made to resume the match on the same day “following the request made by players of both teams.”
Except according to Denmark, it was less a “request” from the teams and more of a decision they were forced to make. The Finland camp has since shared that the team was always going to take its lead from the Danish side during the process.
UEFA, the European governing body for soccer and organizers of the tournament, provided a statement on the way the situation was handled:
“UEFA is sure it treated the matter with utmost respect for the sensitive situation and for the players. It was decided to restart the match only after the two teams requested to finish the game on the same evening. The players’ need for 48 hours’ rest between matches eliminated other options.”
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The Danes are next scheduled to play against the world’s No. 1 team, Belgium on Thursday with another loss making advancement to the knockout rounds from Group B a difficult proposition. Hjulmand admitted that “maybe for some [players], the time is too short to be able to play football again.”
What now for Christian Eriksen?
The day after the incident, Denmark’s team doctor Morten Boesen confirmed that Eriksen had experienced cardiac arrest on the field and that “he was gone” before the medical staff resuscitated him.
“We got him back after one defibrillator, so that’s quite fast,” Boesen said in a Sunday press conference. “I’m not a cardiologist, so the details I will leave to the experts at the hospital.”
Examinations are still ongoing, according to the player’s agent, Martin Schoots.
“We all want to understand what happened to him and he wants to as well. The doctors are doing some detailed examinations. It will take time,” Schoots told Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday.
“We are in touch with him. We were in touch with him yesterday and today. [His] condition is the same as yesterday, stable, good,” a Denmark federation spokesperson told media on Monday. Players also visited their teammate in the hospital.
“It was nice to see him smile and laugh and be himself and just feel that he is there,” goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said. “It was a great experience and something that has helped me a lot.”
In a Reuters report, doctors at both of his most recent clubs — Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur — confirmed that there were no medical red flags they encountered over the years Eriksen has been under their care.
Eriksen’s cardiologist at Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, Sanjay Sharma, said that the decision whether to resume his career will belong to the player, but some countries are more strict than others about whether they will permit it.
“In Italy, the laws are very, very strict, and I understand that it would be against the law for him to now play competitive sport in Italy,” Sharma told Reuters. “Other countries are a little bit more liberal and respect the autonomy of the athlete. So at best, he may get a defibrillator put in and be allowed to play in some countries.
“But in most situations like this, it’s a career-ending situation.”