Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark

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Interest in CPR and defibrillators has been pulling the attention of Danes away from soccer’s European Championship since the collapse of Christian Eriksen.

The tournament, with the national team playing all three of its group games at home in Copenhagen, was supposed to create a two-week party in the capital — with many hoping Denmark would be able to repeat its improbable triumph from the 1992 tournament.

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But Eriksen fell face-forward onto the field with cardiac arrest during the team’s opening game against Finland on Saturday. And suddenly a large portion of Denmark’s 6 million people were watching live on TV as one of the country’s best-known athletes was given emergency CPR, his teammates standing around him with tears in their eyes.

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Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called it “a national shock.”

“Rarely has it been less important whether a football match was won or lost,” Frederiksen wrote on Facebook.

Eriksen, widely regarded as Denmark’s best player, was resuscitated with a defibrillator and was in stable condition in a Copenhagen hospital on Monday.

But the national shock hasn’t quite dissipated.

Eriksen’s collapse remains the talk of the nation. Many wonder how it could happen to such a healthy player. And a debate is still raging over whether the game should have been called off. It was suspended for about 90 minutes before resuming, having been stopped near the end of the first half. Finland went on to score in the second half and won 1-0.

The interest among Danes in learning CPR and how to use a defibrillator has skyrocketed. A national organization that puts up defibrillators across the country said more than 640 people have volunteered to learn how to use one since Saturday — compared to 90 the previous weekend.

There also has been widespread anger in Denmark toward European soccer governing body UEFA for only giving the players the option of either finishing the game on Saturday evening or resuming on Sunday at noon instead.

The players themselves on Monday said they didn’t want to resume but thought it was better to finish Saturday than to come back the next day.

“It was not our wish to play,” Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite said. “We had two options and would have liked a third option. But we were told we had to make a decision. … There were many players who weren’t in a condition to play the match. We were in a completely different place.”

Another much-debated topic has been the impact on young viewers, who watched one of their sporting idols lying unconscious on the ground.

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For unprepared children, seeing such pictures equals “a slap in the face,” said Ane Lemche, a psychologist with the Danish chapter of Save the Children.

“And children can also get confused, because he looks quite lifeless and that is uncomfortable for a child,” she told Danish broadcaster DR.

Boerns Vilkaar, a child counselling organization, posted advice for parents on its website, saying many children who watched were “scared, insecure and sad.”

The Danish soccer federation also tweeted a link to the organization’s advice.

“Those kinds of pictures can be hard to get out of your head,” the organization wrote. “Some children may think about it a lot and be affected by it for a long time.”