When Fabrice Muamba went into cardiac arrest and collapsed at White Hart Lane nine years ago, the shock arose in part from the extraordinary rarity of the event. It is therefore to the credit of the game to have recognized that such scenes would happen again, even if it could not say how or when. No one in the stands, let alone the millions around the world, assumed the dreaded moment would come in the 43rd minute of a drowsy goalless draw between Denmark and Finland. One of the great strengths of football, however, is that it plans for all eventualities, no matter how gruesome or far-fetched they are.
Shortly after the Premier League held its breath on Muamba, Arsene Wenger predicted that such a deeply disturbing incident would change the sport for the better. “Does football need more research, or better control of heart problems, to stop this kind of situation? “Asked the Frenchman. “You can always learn something from these types of situations. “
Eriksen, not that he suffered from a pre-existing heart condition known at 29, clearly benefited from football’s determination to learn from the Muamba affair. It only took a few seconds for Kjaer to quell the shock of seeing his friend lying on the grass for him to call for initial medical help. When the trauma of these views finally subsides, it will be to the Milan center-back that one of the largest debts of gratitude will be owed.
Not only did he have the presence of mind to deal with Eriksen’s smashed body, he also guided the rest of the Danish squad to form a protective shield around the area and then headed out to comfort the woman. midfielder, Sabrina, hugging her and persuading her not to come onto the pitch. It was a show of quick thinking that commanded the deepest respect.
One day, the image of this tight guard of players, many of whose faces betray deep anguish, will be cited among the most moving displays of team spirit summoned in the name of sport.
Kjaer (right, with Finland’s Teemu Pukki before the restart), in particular, set in motion responses to an emergency that could have had a much more serious outcome. But we must also recognize the doctors who administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and who ensured that a player whose life was at stake at 5:43 p.m. was declared awake by the Danish federation 48 minutes later.
It was an occasion where the honor deserved to be widely spread, from referee Anthony Taylor to players, medics to physiotherapists, for their role in Eriksen’s return.
Gary Lewin, the former England physiotherapist, is an expert at acting quickly when life and death situations arise mid-game.
In 1989, after seeing David Rocastle in obvious distress after his airways blocked with his tongue, he rushed into the field to get the necessary treatment. After being called for help from John Terry under similar circumstances in the 2007 League Cup final, the Chelsea captain credited him with saving his life.
Lewin described on Saturday night how improvements to the game’s medical procedures saved Eriksen from a more gruesome fate. “The medical team will have gone into what we call the ’emergency action plan’,” he explained.
“Once they stabilized him, they would put him in the cardiac position as soon as possible. The image of him leaving the ground with oxygen was a sign that the intervention of the medical team was very fast and very effective. All I can say is what an amazing job they all did.
It was also the strongest reminder of the need for all teams, whatever their level, to have a defibrillator and people trained in its use nearby. In Danish schools, it is compulsory to learn CPR, a policy that has reportedly tripled survival rates after heart attacks in the country. A lot of players obviously knew exactly what to do the second they noticed Eriksen in such danger.
What could have been one of football’s darkest days turned out, in Copenhagen’s one-night stand, one of the noblest.