THE DANISH FAIRY STORY OF CHRISTIAN DANNEMANN ERIKSEN

Thursday, 28 April 2022 | In Focus

There's been so much written about our star man but we asked a Dane,Tobias Neigaard, to produce his own version of our Danish fairy story and what the next chapter might be.  
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The Incident

Parken Stadium in Copenhagen was packed with more than 15,000 football fans from Denmark and Finland, yet you could hear a pin drop. All around the stands were stunned fans and players, fathers comforting their children, teenagers on the phone with their parents seeking an escape from the horrors they had just witnessed first-hand. What was meant to be a day of celebration of the beautiful game had turned into a nightmare, as Christian Eriksen collapsed with a cardiac arrest in the 43rd minute. As the medical team heroically tried to save the Danish midfielder, his teammates, arm in arm, formed a protective ring to offer privacy to him and the medical team. After what seemed to be an eternity, the news started circling the stadium that Eriksen was awake again.

However crazy it may sound, the show had to go on, and the game was restarted. Although Denmark lost the game, life won that day, which marked the beginning of a fairy tale that not even the famous Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen, could have written.

Joining Brentford

Through hard work, dedication, and a lot of support from the entire world, Christian Eriksen made his way back into football just six months after the incident. However, due to Italian health regulations, Eriksen was prohibited from playing with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator and thus had to terminate his contract with Inter Milan.

Leaving Italy with a desire to resume his playing career, Eriksen knew his next move would be an important one. There was no shortage of takers for the Danish midfield-maestro, but Thomas Frank knew he had a compelling case when he called Eriksen. The two Danes knew each other well from their shared time with the Danish under-17 team. Fortunately, Eriksen agreed that Brentford was a smart move, and on 31 January, he could officially call himself a Brentford player. The Danish media’s interest in this particular transfer was unparalleled. Every single news outlet, not just the major sports media, reported on Eriksen’s move to Brentford. We are talking the two national broadcasters in Denmark, DR and TV2, reporting with large yellow ‘breaking news’ banners across their websites and even on live TV. One of the many articles on DR’s website was several paragraphs long and included fact boxes about Brentford and Eriksen, as well as multiple experts’ takes on why this was a good decision. In this article, Andreas Kraul, a long-time Danish football pundit and journalist, says that Brentford is a very sensible decision. He says that Eriksen is coming ‘home’ to his second home, London, where he spent seven years at Spurs. Kraul continues, “he needs a higher degree of safety and understanding from the clubIt is important that he has hopefully found a club and a coach who has a clear understanding of how he should be played properly. But more importantly, know who he is as a person and what he needs right now to get his football career back on track. The Danish connection is more important than when he would normally change clubs”, says Kraul.

The Fairy Tale Continues

As we all know, the story does not end there. Everyone was excited to see Eriksen back on the pitch, and despite bigger games being played at the same time, Brentford vs. Newcastle was the main focus of the Danish media, as it was Eriksen’s first official game after the incident. He came on in the 52nd minute, but was, unfortunately, unable to change the outcome of the game, which the Bees lost 2-0. A week later, Brentford was, once again, the talk of the town in Denmark. Thomas Frank had mentioned to the press that Eriksen could, potentially, get his first game as a starter against Norwich, and indeed he did. With a quality delivery from a corner flicked on by Ajer, Eriksen opened the Ivan Toney hat-trick show. Eriksen impressed everyone in that game with his sublime passing and coolness on the ball. Needless to say, the Danish media, and the Bees, were relishing Eriksen’s victorious return. His collapse at the Euros was a universal shock that the entire world, even people with no interest in football, were talking about it. Now that he is back and playing as if he had never left, the world is watching closely as the magical story unfolds, and everyone is on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens next.

With an assist and another solid performance in the following game against Burnley, Eriksen was sure to get a call-up for the Danish national team, and of course, he did. First up was the Netherlands away at his old home ground in Amsterdam. Secondly, his long-awaited return to Parken Stadium in Copenhagen against Serbia.

The Return to Parken

Everyone knows Eriksen is a world-class footballer. However, I doubt many had seen it coming when he scored just three minutes after coming off the bench in his return to the Danish national team. Not even the Dutch supporters could resist celebrating Eriksen’s brilliant equaliser. Could this fairy tale get any better, people were asking themselves. And the answer to that question came just three days later in Denmark.

The game against Serbia may have been just a friendly, but everyone seemed to have forgotten that. This game was one of the most, if not THE most anticipated game of the season. With more than 34,000 tickets sold, the stadium was completely sold-out several months in advance. In fact, more tickets had been sold for this game than any other friendly game since Parken Stadium was rebuilt in 2009. The anticipation was immense as people waited to see Christian Eriksen step out of the tunnel and on to the pitch for the first time since the incident, at the very same stadium where it all happened just nine months ago. Eriksen was appointed the Danish captain for the occasion. A nice gesture by Kasper Schmeichel, who usually wears the captain’s band. The Danish players were carried forward by the buzzing stadium, which exploded in joy after just 15 minutes when the new national darling, Joakim Mæhle put the Danes ahead with a beautiful volley from outside the box. The Danes dominated throughout the game and went up by two as young Jesper Lindstrøm scored his first goal for Denmark. The game, the night, and the story of Christian Eriksen’s return to football culminated in the 57th minute as he effortlessly placed the ball in the bottom left corner with an absolute belter from long range. All of Denmark went wild, and the crowd’s noise could be heard across the entire country.

Several Danish football experts and pundits applauded Eriksen for his performances in the two games for Denmark. For example, the former Danish international and Everton player, Thomas Graversen, told the Danish football magazine, Tipsbladet, that he was thoroughly impressed not only by his performances, but also his determination and hard work off the pitch: “I see a young man who has risen after a terrible accident. Christian Eriksen has trained hard and been prepared. He has wanted to show people that he is still a great football player. He has had an enormous determination, and you have can see it through his training. I am deeply impressed by that”. However, on the more modest side, Eriksen said in an interview with the Danish football magazine, Bold.dk, that he is not at all surprised by how well his return to football has gone: “It does not surprise me. I have not lost any football qualities. I have been able to build everything up in a good and calm way. It was not something I was worried about. It was more if I would be allowed to play football again. But I have not been worried that I would return with my qualities”. Eriksen’s international teammate, Jannik Vestergaard, said to Tipsbladet, “You have to be careful what you say, but he was almost better than ever”. Whether or not Eriksen is better than ever, it seems everyone agrees that Eriksen has not lost his touch and is still the magnificent player as he always was.

Uncertain Future

However, due to the rather unusual circumstances, Brentford were only able to sign Eriksen on a six-month contract. This, of course, raises questions about where Eriksen will play next season. Thomas Frank is certain that Eriksen strongly considers staying with the Bees. He told Bold.dk, “We hope to make a deal with him, but nothing will be decided until the end of the season. I have no doubts at all that he is strongly considering staying with us, but we have to see what it ends with”.

New rumours about Eriksen’s next move seem to pop up by the day, and the Danish media report on them daily. Tipsbladet reports that he is close to signing for Spurs, while Bold.dk believes he may be going to Manchester United or Newcastle. However, Tipsbladet has also reported on rumours linking him to Leicester City and the Dutch giants Ajax. The latter is perhaps not as much a rumour, rather the wishful thinking of his old teammate and fellow compatriot, Lasse Schöne, who told TV2, “I would love to see him in Ajax. I have talked to him about it. I told him he should play his last five years at Ajax. He still talks to many of the boys he got to know here, and it was not for nothing that he trained with Ajax to rehabilitate, but he is also doing well in London, and he has his family there, so we have to see what the future brings”, says Schöne. However, the Spurs rumour seems to be the most prevalent one in the Danish media. Some of the major football magazines even claim they have sources telling them that Eriksen is close to signing for Spurs, which would reunite him with his former Inter Milan gaffer, Conte.

These are all, of course, just rumours. For now, Eriksen remains at Brentford where he seems to be thriving, and as Thomas Frank said, Eriksen is strongly considering staying at Brentford. After the horrific incident, where we all watched in disbelief as Eriksen collapsed on the pitch, there was some uncertainty as to whether he would ever play again. Who knows what the future holds for this resilient Danish footballer? All we know is, he’s back on the pitch, and it’s in a red and white Brentford shirt.

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