Christian Eriksen: Football’s phoenix

christian eriksen, featured, football

The phoenix, a bird birthed in Greek mythology that ‘cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again’, essentially rising from its own ashes to lead its new life. It is a commonly used metaphor for rebirth or rebounding from a difficult situation.

For Christian Eriksen, the phoenix represents more than just a metaphor – it represents his life.

Turn the clock back to June 12th, 2021. The group stages of Euro 2020 have just got underway. Denmark, widely considered to be a dark horse for the tournament, boasting a squad featuring Eriksen, fresh off the back of a Serie A title victory with Inter Milan, and Champions League winner Andreas Christensen, among others, were in the middle of their match against Finland.

It’s the 42nd minute, the Finnish defence have cleared the ball out for a throw-in. Eriksen jogs off to retrieve the ball and take the throw-in. As he nears the touchline, his pace slows, his body begins to slouch forward, and he eventually collapses right next to the touchline.

The referee signals for the team doctors to rush on, teammates hurry by, and playmaker and captain Simon Kjaer moves swiftly and decisively to remove Eriksen’s tongue from a dangerous position. For ten minutes, Christian Eriksen lay unresponsive on the Parken Stadium pitch in Copenhagen.

“He was gone,” team doctor Morten Boesen would later state in a press conference, a cardiac arrest later pronounced as the cause.

“We started the resuscitation and we managed to do it. How close were we to losing him? I don’t know, but we got him back after one defib [defibrillation], so that’s quite fast.”

They are scenes that are sadly etched in the memories of many football fans the world over. One of the stars of our game. A father. A partner. A son and a friend almost stripped away from those close to him.

Christian Eriksen

Christian Eriksen playing for Denmark (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Fast forward nine months to the 26th of March 2021. Christian Eriksen, like a phoenix, had risen from the ashes of June 2021, and soared back into the Premier League with newly-promoted Brentford. A side experiencing their maiden Premier League season, and who Eriksen, having joined in January, has already provided an assist for in his three games in the top-flight since June.

At the weekend the Dane soared once again, this time climbing back to the heights of international football. Back to the altitude that nearly brought about his demise in the middle of last year. Denmark was hosted by the Netherlands at the Johan Cruyff Arena, the theatre in which Eriksen made his name as a player with historic club Ajax.

Down 3-1 at half-time, Danish coach Kasper Hjulmand turned to his bench. He turned to Christian Eriksen.

Fitted with an implanted cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), he was brought on for Frankfurt youngest Jesper Lindstrom in the 46th minute. It was his return to international football. His first match for his nation since that fateful June afternoon. An occasion so momentous, so beautiful, that opposing manager Louis Van Gaal stood and applauded as he walked out on to the pitch.

Two minutes into one of the most courageous returns in sporting history, Eriksen, assisted by a lovely ball from the by-line Andreas Skov Olsen, had returned to the score sheet.

Rifling a shot into the top-left corner on a night where he earnt his 110th and most important cap, Eriksen capped off a beautifully captivating moment in football history.

He claimed post-match: “If you take away the result, I’m one happy man. To go through what I’ve been through, being back is a wonderful feeling.”

For many who watched as his medical incident occur, either in person or on television, these sentiments are shared. Eriksen’s return was an emotional reminder that there are things in life far more important than football. It was a pertinent reminder as well of the beauty in football, especially when opportunities like Eriksen’s arise, and of the profound beauty in seeing others rise from the ashes, to be reborn into greatness.

With the swift strike of his foot, Christian Eriksen ignited the second half of his career, and more importantly, the second half of his life. It was a second half that many feared would never kick off.

But there he stood on Saturday, football’s phoenix who has so bravely risen for the ashes, and who shall continue to do so for many years.

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