By Lenn Robbins
Miracle – an event manifesting or considered as a work of God; or, a marvel or a wonder.
He was dead.
I was certain of it. The trainers and medical staff were doing CPR, pumping up and down on Christian Eriksen’s body. Then it seemed is if Eriksen’s body spasmed twice. Paddles. They were using the paddles, the automated external defibrillator that has become, thankfully, a required piece of medical intervention that has saved countless lives.
Eriksen’s teammates on Denmark men’s national soccer team formed a protective screen around their fallen comrade as the crowd in Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium, fell, well, deathly silent on Saturday.
A Twitter post showed Eriksen start to falter before falling face first to turf at the 42nd-minute mark of his country’s European Championship match against Finland. His eyes remained wide open. His body remained motionless.
Teammates Martin Braithwaite and Thomas Delaney raced to Erickson. They saw what we saw and began waving frantically toward the Denmark bench for help, for a miracle.
Not since Lawrence Taylor snapped Joe Theismann’s leg and made that same desperate gesture toward the Washington sideline had I seen an athlete respond with such, well, desperation. That was a gruesome injury but no miracle was needed.
Eriksen’s collapse reminded me of that December 13 college basketball game when Florida’s Keyontae Johnson fell face first to the court. He lived. A wonder? A marvel? A miracle?
Whether or not you believe in God, it’s hard to imagine anyone not thinking about their own mortality as well as Erickson’s. If this had been an elderly person in the stands it might have been easier to fathom. Maybe. But this does not happen to a 29-year-old professional athlete in the prime of his life.
One second he was playing intensely for his home country. The next he was with us and not with us.
What made it worse – what could make it worse? – was that this was unfolding live on international TV – an elite player who competes for a top team, Inter Milan, appeared to die on the pitch as millions of fans around the world watched. Fans hugged one another. Many cried. The announcers weren’t sure what to say. Who would when a miracle is needed?
And the Fins, the poor Fins. While the Danes encircled their fallen teammate – they would use towels to curtain off Erikson from the inquisitive cameras and stunned fans as he was wheeled off the pitch – the Fins stood around aimlessly, eye witnesses to a scene no athlete should ever witness.
Then, of course, there was the one person among the thousands in attendance who saw this through tear-filled eyes and a mind that was being forced to consider the unthinkable. Sabrina Kvist Jensen, who was identified on Wikipedia as Eriksen’s partner, came down to the field.
Denmark captain Simon Kjaer and goalie Kasper Schmeichel comforted her and the trio held each other up and together in a heartbreaking hug. Did they pray for a miracle or a marvel of medical intervention?
The game was suspended, the only sane decision to be made, until the evening. Finland edged Denmark, 1-0, on a goal by striker Joel Pohjanpalo.
“Of course, it was hard for us to go to the pitch, and I can only imagine how hard it was for Denmark,” Pohjanpalo told Finnish TV. “A great victory for us, but the foremost thing on our minds is Christian’s condition.”
Christian’s condition is as wonderful as can be – he was in a Copenhagen hospital, conscious and speaking. About an hour prior, he was as close to passing over as one can get.
Then the trainers and emergency medical personnel in the stadium began their powerful chest compressions and never let up. There were reports in Europe that Eriksen’s heart had stopped for five minutes – five! – but those miracle workers kept pumping for the fallen player for Erikson.
The Daily Mail quoted Tottenham Hotspur cardiologist, Sanjay Sharma as saying that he put Erikson through a battery of cardiac tests from 2013-2020 and none ever found any evidence of a heart problem. Sharma said it’s a “miracle,” that Eriksen is alive.
When Team USA beat the Russians in hockey at 1980 Olympics, the brilliant Al Michaels launched his own career by asking us, “Do you believe in miracles?”
That, of course, was a gargantuan upset, but a miracle?
A Twitter post heralded Kjaer for securing Eriksen’s neck, clearing his airway and beginning CPR. For him to know how to act so wisely and decisively in the moment is what – a marvel, a wonder, a miracle?
There will be many people heralded as heroes, and this is one of the few instances when that honor is warranted. This was mankind at its best. Others will say this was God at his or her or its best.
I can’t imagine Christian Eriksen giving a damn penalty kick about that argument. He’s alive today and that’s all that matters, whether it was a miracle, a wonder, or a marvel.