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Real life and the Beautiful Game

It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, and they’re down to the final four.

For many fans and journalists, they feel these final few games are a life-and-death struggle for their team.

Then real life steps in and reminds us what life and death are all about.

On Saturday morning, I was watching the BBC text commentary on the soccer match between Finland and Denmark at the 2020 Euro Championships. Denmark, as expected, were carrying the play to their Scandinavian neighbours.

And then . . .

At the 42-minute mark of the first half, this was the commentary: “Jonas Wind throws himself at a cross but his header rolls towards the Finland keeper.”

One minute later, the mood changed totally. “This looks concerning. Christian Eriksen has just collapsed, I think. Something is wrong. The physios rush on.”

BBC commentator Emlyn Bagley, reporting from England and watching basically the same coverage everyone else was, switched from reporting on a football game to something else: “Very concerning. I just saw a replay and Christian Eriksen collapsed as a throw-in was taken towards him. The players around him immediately called for the medical staff to come on and the referee blew the whistle to stop play.”

The medical staff were seen performing CPR on Eriksen, and then the cameras covering the game switched their view to the reactions of other players and those on the benches.

Ten minutes later, with the medical staff still attending to Eriksen, Bagley noted the players were headed off the field.

A few minutes later, the text commentary carried a tweet from Fabrice Muamba. It said simply, “Please God.” Muamba was playing for Bolton Wanderers in 2012 when he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field, and was clinically dead for 78 minutes. He recovered, but never played football again.

Eriksen was transported to hospital for further examination, and was shortly afterwards reported to be conscious.

The teams were consulted, and both teams wanted to continue the game. They did, although I find it hard to believe any of their thoughts were totally on the game. The final score, in case anybody cared, was Finland 1 Denmark 0.

Philip O’Connor, a Reuters reporter at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, tweeted while Eriksen was still being worked on at the stadium: “Finnish fans chanting ‘Christian’, Danes answering with ‘Eriksen’ here at Parken.

“Even in its darkest times, this is a beautiful game.”

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