Euro 2020: 'I knew straight away' - Referee Anthony Taylor reflects on the moment Denmark's Christian Eriksen collapsed
Anthony Taylor says he knew instantly that Christian Eriksen was in trouble when he collapsed during a Euro 2020 match he was officiating between Denmark and Finland. The Premier League referee also suggests defibrillators should be at all grounds. "I knew straightaway something was wrong because of how his face looked and how he fell to the floor. That is what concerned me the most."
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Euro 2020 referee Anthony Taylor has revealed that he immediately knew Christian Eriksen’s life was in danger when the Denmark star collapsed with a cardiac arrest during his country’s clash with Finland.
The Premier League official, who was overseeing the Group B encounter, has received widespread praise for the manner in which he handled the situation back in June, but has been keen to salute the ‘true heroes’ of that evening in the shape of Danish skipper Simon Kjaer and the medical staff that gave the Inter Milan midfielder CPR.
He said: "I could tell straight away. Christian was on his own. The only thing that was close to him was a bouncing ball which hit his knee. I was actually looking directly at him when he fell over. I could see his face as he fell.
I knew straightaway something was wrong because of how his face looked and how he fell to the floor. That is what concerned me the most.
“My main priority is the safety of the players. That means if a player is injured or not well, they need medical help. That is all I did. I called a doctor on to the field. Nothing else hit me until the following day when I was travelling back to Istanbul (to the tournament’s base for officials). The real heroes on that night were the Danish captain and the medics who performed the initial CPR and defibrillation."
Prince William has been among the many observers who have credited Taylor for his quick actions in ensuring Eriksen got rapid medical attention - and he admits continuing with the match was the last thought on his mind at that point.
“In the moment it happens the sole focus is to ensure Christian got the treatment he needed,” he said. “He clearly did because of the quick reaction of not only his captain but also the medics. That is the bottom line. The football, at that point, was irrelevant. At the end of the day, we are dealing with people.
"In the immediate aftermath of getting the teams on to Christian, everybody is still coming to me as the match referee for what do we do next. Is the game continuing? Is it not? What do we do? How long do we wait? That is my job in conjunction with the Uefa delegate. Even after that initial unfortunate situation, I still had plenty to do in terms of managing the emotions of everybody there.
"The fundamental thing was that Christian was OK and got the help he needed. Then we had to make sure both sets of players were OK and I had to make sure the rest of my team were OK."
Asked how the rest of his refereeing team coped with the distressing situation and if they were ready to continue if Eriksen was well, he added: "I had experienced that before, not only at a Premier League game but also in my previous work in the prison service. I genuinely needed to consider my assistants and my fourth official but at the time, when we took the players inside, I am not with these guys. They are sat in our changing room. I am in a different room with the match delegate and representatives of the teams.
"We had decided to suspend the game until we found out how Christian was. That was the fundamental piece of information we needed to know before we could make any further decision about the game continuing. I didn't get chance to speak to my team until I went back into my changing room quite a long time afterwards. I needed to see how they were and to make sure - if needed - could we continue the game ourselves."
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Taylor has yet to speak to Eriksen since the incident but revealed that he has messaged the former Tottenham man and that he knew prior to leaving the ground on the day that Eriksen’s status had improved after a discussion with Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
“I haven't personally spoken to him,” he said. “I sent him a message in the days after the incident. I did speak to Kasper Schmeichel before we left the stadium after the game. The Danish players had spoken to Christian on FaceTime I think it was from the hospital. Kasper came to see me and we had a brief discussion about how Christian was."
Taylor was speaking to the BBC about the incident at his local club, Altrincham, who are one of the first sides to receive an automated external defibrillator at their ground. More than 2,000 are being made available to grassroots clubs through the Premier League's Defibrillator Fund and the 42-year-old firmly believes incidents like the one with Eriksen are great examples of why the equipment should be widely accessible.
He added: “It doesn't matter how fit, or young, or old we think we are, a sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any point in time, so that, to me, highlights the importance of having these defib units available everywhere possible and for people to understand why we need them and how to use them."
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