‘You could hear a pin drop’: One Denmark fan on a harrowing night at Parken
When the stadium announcer began updating us on Christian Eriksen’s health, you could hear a pin drop. I have never been in such a quiet place and it felt worlds away from the vibrant, electric atmosphere at the outset. Once we knew the news was positive, the ripple of relief was tremendous. Everybody started clapping, cheering, releasing so much emotion in the knowledge he was stable. Half an hour earlier we had feared the very worst; all we could do now was feel profoundly thankful.
Twenty-four hours on, the overwhelming feelings were of emptiness and disbelief. I attended the game with friends and we all feel the same. On Sunday morning I woke up in an empty house, as my family are out of town for the weekend, so I needed to get out and talk with people to discuss what we had seen while finding a distraction from it, too. I coach a team of eight-year-olds and, although my son was not playing, I went to watch their game. I chatted with the other parents and went through the events from Parken but it was just good to see kids playing football, being happy and taking such joy from the game. Sunday, of all days, that felt really important.
Everything feels even stranger in context of the game’s buildup. The scene was boiling with optimism and happiness before kick-off: everyone had been waiting months for this and, besides, it was the first day of the pandemic in which people could really go out in the same way as before. The happiness was spread everywhere.
Our group of about 20 attend all of the national-team games: it is a ritual. On Saturday we took our places in the corner that, as it sadly turned out, was right in front of where Christian collapsed. As soon as he fell to the ground you knew, logically, that this was really bad: he was lying with no movement and he had not tried to break the fall. But in moments like that you do not want to believe what your brain is saying. Everyone was in shock and looking around at everyone else, asking: “What’s going on?” to see if they had seen the same thing as you.
The picture quickly became more intense. People began performing CPR on him and, at that point, you are in no doubt that the situation is grave. Around us, fans started to cry and put hands in front of their mouths. The medics carried on and on, for what seemed like an eternity. I have to be honest: at that stage I thought it was over. We thought it had taken so long that he could not survive.
The minutes that followed were agonising. Eventually an ambulance arrived on the pitch and we could see Christian being taken inside. It stopped for a while before driving away and I thought that wait could mean one of two things: that nothing more could be done, or that maybe he was stable to some extent.
Shortly after that there was a change in the stand around us. People had glimpsed images that suggested he had responded when he was being carried away. Rumours started spreading but nobody really knew: all we could do was wait for that announcement and pray everything was OK.
A few people had left the stadium while this was going on but most stayed: we all needed to know what would happen. We did not believe anyone would be able to play football afterwards, despite the better information that was coming out. Watching the remainder was like an out-of-body experience: there was little passion from the stands, just some clapping, and certainly no rebuke when Finland scored or Pierre-Emile Højbjerg had a penalty saved. What we had been through, and were still processing together, made that feel insignificant.
I feel proud of Denmark’s players for the way they reacted, working to save their friend and forming a protective circle around him, and then for their strength in seeing the rest of the day through. The Finland players and their fans should also be praised. The moment when both sets of supporters began a routine, chanting Christian’s name, was truly beautiful: it showed that, even though there is rivalry between teams and countries, sometimes we can get together and make something that is much bigger than football.
Now we wait for more news of Christian, and hope for the best possible recovery. I hardly need to tell you how much he means to us. Christian is a remarkable person, a monumental figure, who has been the face of our national team for so many years. He is a family man and easy to relate to despite his status. When this happens to someone like him it feels personal, and where it gets even harder is the realisation that if such a serious, dedicated sportsman can suffer something like this then anyone can. Since Saturday it has been impossible not to reflect on the fragility of life.
Denmark have two home games left but I feel little appetite to return to the stadium just now. Maybe that will pick up over the next few days and perhaps we still can find a way to take something positive out of Euro 2020. Even if we do, nothing will be more important than the fact Christian is alive.