The Danish midfielder received life-saving treatment during his country’s game against Finland in June 2021, eventually being resuscitated and taken to hospital.
The players on the pitch, those inside the stadium and fans around the world held their breath as Eriksen’s teammates linked arms to hide his fight for survival.
They were scenes that bore similarities with Monday night when Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field.
Like Eriksen, Hamlin also suffered a cardiac arrest. According to the Bills, his heartbeat was restored on the field and the 24-year-old remains in a “critical condition” at a Cincinnati hospital.
Buffalo Bills team trainers got to Hamlin within 10 seconds of his collapse, similar to the team doctors who had saved Eriksen’s life.
“Well, what should I say? He was gone,” said Denmark’s team doctor Morten Boesen at the time.
“And we did cardiac resuscitation and it was cardiac arrest. How close were we? I don’t know.”
Eriksen was later fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) device, a type of pacemaker intended to prevent fatal cardiac arrests by discharging a jolt to restore regular heart rhythm, and made an incredible return to the sport he loved.
Denmark’s Euro 2020 match against Finland was restarted later that same evening after a request was made from players of both teams to finish the match.
Eriksen was conscious when he left pitch, even waving to the fans as he was carried away on a stretcher, and a statement from the Danish Football Federation soon afterwards confirmed he was awake in hospital and awaiting further examination.
That was in contrast to Hamlin. A representative for Hamlin’s family said the NFL player was resuscitated just one time following his collapse on the football field on Monday night, friend and marketing representative Jordon Rooney told CNN Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Hamlin’s uncle had told CNN and ESPN that the Buffalo Bills safety had been resuscitated twice – once on the field and again at the hospital – but Rooney said the uncle misspoke.
“His uncle’s incredibly supportive of his of his nephew … I think that, you know, he just wanted to do his part to share some good news and I think just misspoke,” Rooney said.
Despite the decision to resume the match being taken by the players, Denmark head coach Kasper Hjulmand admitted the next day he thought it was the “wrong decision.”
“It was very tough for the players,” he told reporters. “They didn’t even know if they could probably lose their best friend.
“I have the feeling that we shouldn’t have played and wrong that the players had to decide. I’m really proud of the way the world reacted to this incident.
“It’s often about money, but yesterday we saw what football is all about – compassion and love.”
‘The appreciation of being alive’
Just 259 days after he collapsed, Eriksen made his competitive return in the English Premier League after signing for Brentford.
Serie A club Inter Milan – whom Eriksen had been contracted to at the time of the incident – let the midfielder move abroad as he was unable to play in Italy unless the ICD device was removed.
Eriksen came on in the 52nd minute in Brentford’s 2-0 loss to Newcastle United in February 2022 and received a hero’s welcome.
“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,” Eriksen said afterward.
After a brief but successful spell at Brentford, Eriksen made the move to Manchester United in July 2022 where he continues to be a pivotal part of the team.
He’s made 15 league appearances so far this season, scoring once.
Then, in November 2022, Eriksen fulfilled his dream of playing for Denmark in a third World Cup.
The 30-year-old played every minute of Denmark’s three games at Qatar 2022, before his nation departed at the group stage.
Speaking ahead of the tournament, Eriksen said the incident at Euro 2020 altered his perspective on both football and life.
“I think it gave me… let’s say the appreciation of being alive and being with my family. And I think everything else is just moved to the side,” he told reporters.
“To have the possibility to go back and be who I was before was really the aim. My first aim was always to be a boyfriend and a dad.
“It’s still very special to be at the World Cup. The national team is something I’m just very happy to be part of again.”