Monday, November 28, 2022

Christian Eriksen

The first thing to say this morning is thank goodness Christian Eriksen is alive. The few seconds where he staggered, then stumbled, then collapsed to the ground were harrowing to watch, as was what followed.

I’m still not sure I’m right this morning, and I watched this from afar. I can’t imagine how his teammates, his friends, family, and those closest to the action must have felt. CPR saved his life, learn how:

The images of the Danish players standing in a protective circle around their teammate as his life was being saved were incredible. I was considering one of them for the image on this blog, but browsing them was too hard, I didn’t want to cry. TV footage continued, there were images of him being given CPR, close-ups of his partner being consoled on the sideline, and it felt so horribly intrusive.

I know this is a rare event and something which, thankfully, doesn’t happen often, but this is real life, not some kind of reality TV show. Maybe the lines have become too blurred of late but the footage was ghoulish and unnecessary. It demands immediate consultation and for some kind of protocol to be agreed upon.

Remember when Eduardo’s leg was broken and we were told that it was too unpleasant to show? Why is that unacceptable or something that audiences can’t be exposed to, but a man possibly dying in front of our eyes is not? If someone took off all their clothes and ran onto the pitch, the cameras are instantly trained anywhere else but on that person. It has been decided for us that we can’t deal with nudity but the prospect of a footballer passing away is fine? It’s grotesque and it has to be addressed.

For all the criticism of the BBC, who were showing the game in this part of the world, the coverage is controlled by UEFA. Maybe the BBC should have cut to studio earlier, but these weren’t their images. When they did, the panel was clearly shell-shocked, an emotional Alex Scott talking about how she texted her mother to tell her she loved her really resonated. Wisely, they cut short their programme until there was some clarity.

Thankfully, the news was good. Eriksen was awake and sitting up in hospital. Apparently he had a Facetime call with his teammates. In the meantime, UEFA had presented two options: continue that evening, or play the game the following day. Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said:

There was no pressure from Uefa to play tonight. We knew we had two options. The players couldn’t imagine not being able to sleep tonight and then having to get on the bus and come in again tomorrow. Honestly it was best to get it over with. Of course you can’t play a game with such feelings and what we tried to do was incredible.

Genuinely, I don’t know how they did it. For every player who was able to go out there and compartmentalise what had happened, there must have been another who was in shock, having gone through something so traumatic. I’m sure it must have affected some of the Finnish players too. In the end, a sad 1-0 defeat for Denmark is not a great way to start a tournament, especially at home, but in the circumstances there was another result that went in their favour, the health of their teammate.

I don’t know if the bit where Eriksen told them to play came before or after UEFA had handed down those options, I suspect the latter, but I’m happy to be corrected. Either way, while I accept this was a difficult situation, I don’t think they’ve covered themselves in any glory. Maybe it’s a small thing, but telling us the match was going ahead before they provided an update on the health of Eriksen was a reflection of their priorities and their corporate outlook:

The demands placed on footballers  have, over the last 12-18 months, been ridiculous. Punishing schedules, jam-packed international breaks, having to travel in the middle of a pandemic. They must be physically and mentally exhausted. And now, having also been the punching bag for corrupt, self-serving politicians the world over, they’re told ‘Well, sorry your pal almost died but he’s ok so play now or tomorrow’.

I guess they have to play, the show must go on and all that, but there is a duty of care necessary from the people who run the show, and yesterday was a reminder that they are failing in that. Maybe something like this should be a moment where what the show actually is enters the discussion. These aren’t battery-powered entertainers who can recharge and play at a high level three times a week without it affecting them. It’s too easy to look at footballers as things, and not people. Yesterday we were reminded they are just like us (but much better at football). You immediately get reminded of what’s important and what’s not when you see something like this happen, but there some lessons to be learned from it too.

First and foremost though, let’s hope Christian Eriksen makes a full recovery. I don’t know what happens next for him, but the single most important thing any of us have in our lives is our health. Look after yourselves, be with your loved ones today, and remember that football just isn’t more important than life or death.

It never will be.

❤️

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