Schmeichel: Reaction to Eriksen emergency made me proud to be Danish

  • Players, staff, medics and supporters came together after Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest

  • Last week’s awarding of the FIFA Fan Award and FIFA Fair Play Award recognised those efforts

  • Denmark icon and FIFA Legend Peter Schmeichel reflects on a traumatic and ultimately life-affirming day

Although the headline winners hailed from Poland, Spain, Senegal and Chile, there was a distinctly Danish flavour to The Best FIFA Football Awards™. Indeed, on a night on which the major playing, goalkeeping and coaching gongs were spread across countries and continents, Denmark was the only country to collect multiple honours. Both of the prizes in question, the FIFA Fair Play Award and FIFA Fan Award, owed to events on one of the most traumatic days in the country’s recent history. The collapse, cardiac arrest and eventual resuscitation of Christian Eriksen on 12 June is forever etched in the minds of those who witnessed it, with the images particularly vivid for those who saw it all unfold in person.

Denmark's players gather around Denmark's midfielder Christian Eriksen after collapseing on the pitch during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match between Denmark and Finland at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on June 12, 2021.

Peter Schmeichel was among those present at the Parken Stadium and, given his personal connection to Eriksen through his son, Kasper, the former Denmark keeper’s description of the episode should come as no surprise. “When Christian collapsed, it was probably the most difficult moment that [not just] me personally, but I think everybody else has had in football,” he said. “Fortunately, it did not end up being a tragic day, although it was still very, very difficult. But the outcome was good, and it’s why we can smile today. “We had been looking forward to that day for many, many years [because it was] the first time that there had been either a European Championship or World Cup match played in Copenhagen and, of course, it had been postponed the first time around. “I was doing television from five hours before kick-off and the expectations, the build-up, the anticipation, the people of Denmark coming to the stadium many, many hours before – it was something that we hadn’t seen for quite a while.”

When that excitement turned to shock, then horror, there arose the challenge of rising to an awful, unthinkable occasion. Denmark’s players were the first to do so, calling for medical assistance before forming a protective shield to protect the privacy of their stricken team-mate. The medics themselves then played the most important role of all, as Eriksen acknowledged in the days that followed when he thanked them for, quite literally, “saving my life”. And as Denmark’s team and the wider country reeled from the emotional impact of a draining day, coach Kasper Hjulmand and his staff rallied them around a common cause.

“The way the team and the manager, in the knowledge that Christian was okay and alive, took us in and carried us through that difficult period was fantastic,” Schmeichel reflected.

“Quite often, young footballers are accused of being rich, spoilt, selfish, whatever other names people can come up with, but here you had a group of players who took the whole nation and made us feel safe.

“I was very proud to be Danish that day. With the players’ reaction to it and the medical staff’s quick first aid - it’s just incredible how clever and craftsmanlike people are in situations like that.

"I don’t know where the players’ strength came from and how it came. But it was there and that reaction, from the players and medical staff, was amazing to watch. It still makes me very proud.”

The quick thinking and compassion on display made those medics, players and staff popular and thoroughly deserving recipients of the FIFA Fair Play Award.

But Schmeichel was just as delighted to see the supporters of Denmark and Finland acknowledged, through the FIFA Fan Award, for the manner in which they came together in the aftermath of Eriksen’s collapse.

“In difficult circumstances, people are always called out. You get to see who they are,” said the Manchester United legend.

“I was in the stadium that day, and I experienced first-hand how the Danish and Finnish football fans reacted. It was very, very respectful and, I have to say, quite beautiful.”

Finland and Denmark fans chant in support of Denmark's midfielder Christian Eriksen after he was evacuated from the pitch during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match between Denmark and Finland at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on June 12, 2021.