DOHA, Qatar. It was only standing room in the media tent at the Danish base. The staff had anticipated such a rush of interest in the player being interviewed, and when Christian Eriksen slipped in unnoticed, appearing at the top table, silence reigned in the room.

Those in attendance wanted to hear about a man whose heart stopped for five minutes on the pitch during the last major men’s international tournament, Euro 2020, which took place in 2021 due to the pandemic. They were keen to understand his journey, which took him from CPR on the field in Copenhagen to a starring role at Manchester United, and now, just 18 months later, here in Qatar, he has spearheaded yet another Danish gathering for great honors. And he does it again like the best player.

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“From the first interview I gave, [reaching the World Cup] was my first goal from the first day I found out about the possibility of returning,” said Eriksen.

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“Christian is very humble and many people look up to him,” says Denmark’s assistant coach Morten Wieghorst. “Many people were inspired by the way he recovered.”

You feel that he is finished talking about what happened at the Parken stadium on June 12, 2021. He calls it “an accident” when asked, but his focus is simply back on red Denmark. And, according to his loved ones, he is better than ever.

It feels like everyone associated with football or Denmark has their own stories and memories of where they were when Eriksen passed out. But some have stopped talking about it, either wanting to focus on the future or not wanting to remember the moment because it’s too raw.

Eriksen spoke to the media in Qatar on Saturday, four days before Denmark’s first match against Tunisia. Their training camp is located west of Doha at the Al Sailiya Sports Club, nestled amid vast construction projects that stretch across the barren countryside. The highways are barely finished, some exits lead only to rubble.

As Denmark practices behind metal fences and temporary billboards designed to block public view, there is a single fan outside waiting to catch a glimpse of their heroes. Victor, who has come all this way from Vejle in Denmark, hopes to see his hero, Thomas Delaney, but when he starts talking about Eriksen and remembering that day, he gets goosebumps.

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On June 12, Denmark played Finland in the first match of the Euro. It was the second day of the tournament and some were hoping that Denmark would take the lead. They got off to a pretty good start against Finland, gaining momentum in front of a packed crowd in Copenhagen and then the “accident” happened.

At the 43rd minute, Eriksen lost consciousness. The match was stopped. He stopped breathing. His teammates formed a protective, concealing circle around him. “I work at a zoo and we were all taught first aid. So it was immediately clear that everything was serious, ”Victor recalls that incident. “At the beginning, no one saw what happened, as he just fell. And then when they switched to him and the players were around him, you could see the medics doing CPR on him and we were like, shit. , he died.

“People asked me to explain what was going on and I had to tell them that when a person is given CPR it means they are dead, that is a fact. Then, fortunately, they revived him again. we were waiting for news.”

– Denmark vs. Tunisia, Group C, Tuesday, 8:00 AM ET.

Earlier Saturday, another fan, Jorn, recounts his memories over morning coffee at Souq Waqif. He watched the Euros from his home in Arizona due to COVID-19 restrictions but still made it to Qatar for the World Cup. “My friends were at the game but couldn’t see as much as I did because they didn’t show it on big screens – and there are good reasons for that,” he says. “But on TV they zoomed in and I thought, damn, this doesn’t look good. It was scary”.

About an hour after the match was stopped, the Danish Football Association announced that Eriksen’s condition had stabilized. He remained in the hospital while his teammates played and had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) installed. Then the recovery process began.

At this point, football was out of his mind: Eriksen reportedly told the paramedics in the ambulance to leave his boots, as he would never need them again. But as more testing was done, Eriksen was given the green light to return to training. He trained with his old youth team Odense Boldklub in early December 2021 but his career prospects were uncertain. He was still officially an Inter Milan player, but Serie A rules forbade him from continuing to play in the league due to an ICD in his chest. The club confirmed his departure by mutual consent on 17 December.

At the start of the January transfer window, he trained with the youth team of Ajax, the club he joined in 2008 and played for until 2013 when he moved to Tottenham. At that time, Eriksen gave his first interview about what happened and mentioned that he wanted to return to the Danish national team and play in the World Cup. He needed playing time to do this, and on the last day of the window, Brentford offered him a six-month contract, and it quickly became clear that Eriksen was just as good a player as he was before the crash. Some thought it was even better. “He was very humble and calm,” a source told Sportzshala. “He wasn’t a fierce competitor, he was just very measured and incredibly gifted.”

Brentford also have a close relationship with CRY Charity (Cardiac Risk in the Young), whose understanding was formed after the club’s former technical director Robert Rowan died of cardiomyopathy at the age of 28 in November 2018. “Hearing about Rob Rowan, he [Eriksen] voluntarily came to one of the days of the show, which they organized in support of him, ”says the source.

Eriksen returned to the Premier League on 26 February for Brentford and on 26 March he returned for Denmark in their match against the Netherlands. It took him only two minutes to score a goal, delivering a beautiful arc from the first cross from Andreas Skov Olsen. He later hit the post. “You have to be careful what you say, but he was almost better than ever,” says Danish international defender Yannick Vestergård.

Danish fan Viktor recalls the feeling when Eriksen put the red jersey back on. “It was an amazing moment,” he says. “We knew he was fine and everything, but we were worried about it and to see what happened and if it could happen again and everything. Actually it was so strange, but to see him again, it’s just amazing. Every time you see him you think about it and think it can’t be true – he’s playing at his best.”

This feeling of “this can’t be true” resonates with his team as well. “He’s a quality player and in my opinion he’s come back even better than before the crash, which is great to see,” says Wighorst. “He brings vision, technical quality and purpose to our team: he plays a key role in our team, a fantastic player.

“It’s great to have him back, his teammates love him and he’s such an important character. it says a lot about his character, his strength and love for football.”

Whenever Eriksen talks about what happened that day in Copenhagen, he puts his family first. “I think that the World Cup is separate. [What happened] gave me the opportunity to appreciate that I am alive and with my family,” he says. “Everything else has been pushed aside. My football was and still is my career. So to be able to return to who I was before was the goal… that was the second goal. My first goal was to be a husband, well, boyfriend and father.”

Now he is back for his third World Championship. His first match was in 2010 as an 18-year-old Ajax prodigy and his second in 2018 as a world-class Tottenham midfielder. He briefly considers his third “special”, but it closes the circle for him. In fact, Eriksen believes that after reaching the semi-finals of the Euro two summers ago, there is more faith in the Danes.

Then the question arises, is it better than before?

“First of all, I think nothing has changed in terms of conditions,” says Eriksen. “Before the accident, I ran a lot: maybe now I run even less than before. I’m pretty sure I’m the same guy I used to be on the football field. looking in terms of what happened. People look at how I play on the field in different ways.”

Here he has like-minded people: Daley Blind, his former teammate at Ajax, also has an ICD installed. “I’m in constant contact with him,” Blind tells Sportzshala. “We talked beforehand about how special it is to have both of us here on the field at all! This is especially true for Christian. I am very proud of him!”

Eriksen’s last words to Blind before the tournament were to wish him all the best. “I said see you in the final!”

Fans from Denmark will be watching their hero closely, hoping he can inspire them to their first major tournament win since 1992. “His very presence is very important,” Jorn says. “Not that he was [Diego] The figure of Maradona, but he has influence in this team. He is not a noisy person, which is why we like him. We never see him in scandalous magazines: I think people from Denmark appreciate that.

“Most people in Denmark still have high hopes for him. If he passes and they reach the quarter-finals… he will definitely become the king of Denmark!”

– Broadcasts on Sportzshala+: La Liga, Bundesliga and more (USA)

Back in the press tent, Eriksen spoke for about 20 minutes, switching between Danish and English, answering questions about everything from Cristiano Ronaldo, Eriksen’s exit from Inter Milan and France’s midfield standard in addition to his journey and his time here at world championship. …