The two medics who saved the life of Christian Eriksen are the real winners of Euro 2020, agree the pundits on the latest Eurosport x The Beautiful Game podcast collaboration.
Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during Denmark’s game against Finland on Saturday, and the Inter Milan midfielder’s heart was restarted on the field before he was taken to hospital for further treatment.
The 29-year-old is now in a stable condition and hopes to be discharged later this week, but Dotun Abijoh and Deji Odedina say that the game should not miss this opportunity to think about the stresses they are placing their players under.
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“I was scared, you never want to see something like that on a football pitch,” Abijoh said.
“Before I go into it I just want to say that I think the medics are the winners of the tournament for me. I don’t think there’s going to be a national team that wins it for me, it is those two medics that saved Christian Eriksen’s life who are the winners of this tournament.
“It was heart-breaking. Christian Eriksen, a truly great player, a world-class footballer who blessed the English Premier League, one of the best attacking midfielders to play in the league in the last ten years. It just makes you sad. Thankfully he’s still alive and is in a stable condition.”
And Odedina added: “One man we forgot to mention is Anthony Taylor, because he interceded very quickly to allow the medics onto the pitch.”
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The game was restarted later on Saturday evening, with Finland going on to win 1-0.
A number of Denmark players and pundits, including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, have subsequently criticised UEFA over taking the decision to continue the match so quickly.
And Odedina agrees that the decision was a rushed one, failing to take into account what would have been the fragile mental state of the Denmark side.
“I thought the decision to go on after that incident was the wrong one to be honest,” he said.
“When you talk about the emotional state that his colleagues, his friends, must have been in to go out onto that pitch; it was no surprise that they lost the game.
“But the result was secondary. The fact that he’s well and on his way to recovery is the best thing."
Eriksen’s Inter Milan resumed their 2019-20 season in June of last year after the campaign was halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, finishing in August before starting a compressed 2020-21 season just a month later.
As well as a title-winning campaign with Inter, Eriksen also travelled to various international breaks through the most recent season, and Abijoh says an incident like this was always going to happen if the game keeps placing players under increasing physical pressure.
“Maybe there can be more breaks put in place for these footballers, because we see them playing football week in week out,” he said. “During this pandemic, where people have been passing away left right and centre, these players have been asked to play weekly.
“They had no summer last summer, went straight to the Euros this summer, season starts again in a few months. When do these players rest? When these incidents happen it just shines a light on the lack of rest time that these players have and I think something needs to be done."
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“A lot of people had issues when Jurgen Klopp was talking about ‘there’s too much football’," he added. "Pep Guardiola, Ole keep coming out saying there’s too much football, and they are saying this for a reason.
“I think we need to start listening to managers who are in positions of power, because these guys know best, and I think to play more games and more games just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Odedina says the issues go even further than a packed schedule, and pointed to the proposed European Super League as an example of the sport’s off-field interests overriding what is in the best interest of the players.
"These footballers are seen as slabs as meat almost, you put the rules in place and they must conform,” he said.
“There was talk about the ESL taking place, and again who does this benefit? The money men.”
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