A European Championship soccer match between Denmark and Finland came to an abrupt halt on Saturday when Danish team captain Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field and had to be resuscitated, his team doctor said.
Players swiftly called over medical personnel and ― with some in tears ― formed a human shield around Eriksen as he received chest compressions and other aid at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.
His team doctor on Sunday confirmed that the 29-year-old suffered a heart attack.
“He was gone. And we did cardiac resuscitation,” Morten Boesen said at a press conference. “How close were we? I don’t know. We got him back after one defib. That’s quite fast.”
Eriksen, a star midfielder, was taken away on a stretcher after about 10 minutes of medical attention. He was stabilized and transferred to a hospital for tests, according to an announcement from the Union of European Football Associations, which organizes the tournament held every four years.
The match then resumed at the request of both teams.
Boesen said it remains unclear what caused Erikson’s collapse, adding that he would leave that determination to the experts. He said he believed that the midfielder might not have survived had the incident not taken place during a major soccer tournament with top medical equipment and personnel available.
“That was completely decisive, I think,” Boesen said. “The time from when it happens to when he receives help is the critical factor, and that time was short. That was decisive.”
Players were in the first half of the game when Eriksen appeared ready to receive a pass but instead collapsed near the sideline.
“Moments like this put everything in life into perspective,” UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said in a statement. “At these times, the unity of the football family is so strong and he and his family carry with them the good wishes and prayers of everyone.”
Eriksen later spoke to his teammates on a video call to reassure them he felt OK.
“He said ‘I don’t remember much but I’m more concerned about you guys. How are you doing?’” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand recalled Sunday. “That’s typical Christian. … It was good to see him smile.”
“Incredible effort from the paramedic team,” tweeted Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
“My god, thinking of Eriksen and his family and sending all the love and strength available,” Team USA star player Megan Rapinoe said.
“Encouraging news about Christian Eriksen, we are all thinking about him and his family,” Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, wrote in a tweet that also praised the “swift action” of medical staff and referee Anthony Taylor.
Video from the stadium showed the fans shouting “Christian” and “Eriksen” back and forth in solidarity during the pause in the game, which lasted roughly 90 minutes.
The next match, between Belgium and Russia, will go forth as scheduled, the UEFA said.
Hjulmand said Eriksen wants them to keep playing and that psychologists have also supported the team getting “back to some normality” after such trauma.
The players and staff were receiving crisis management assistance as they process what happened, The Associated Press reported.