Christian Eriksen is a talent of his generation. A centurion for his country and a veteran of over 500 club games for Ajax, Tottenham Hotspur and Internazionale. A sporting idol to millions of fans, it is easy to forget he also lives a normal family life.
On Saturday evening in Copenhagen, Eriksen fought for his life on a stage that has shaped his professional identity. The harrowing images of his collapse moments before half-time shocked and shook the world, and as the medics successfully worked to revive him, he suddenly became no different to any of us.
The opening Group B match of EURO 2020 between Eriksen's Denmark and Finland was postponed. Football was the furthest thing from anyone's mind at that moment. With players from both teams clearly distressed, that was the only option. As the live feed from the Parken Stadium ended, millions of fans around the world could only hope that the midfielder would pull through.
Thankfully, Eriksen was quickly revived and was reportedly awake and responsive enough to speak to members of the Danish side through a video call. The emotional relief sparked a movement within the group for the match to resume. Finland agreed, and the match was played to a conclusion later that evening. The result was irrelevant on the night, though.
The most important of the unimportant things
The reason the result was irrelevant is because the sporting aspects of the evening simply no longer mattered. From Group B points to the controversy of the competition format, every element of the tournament both on and off the pitch no longer held any importance. Everyone's thoughts were only with Christian Eriksen and his loved ones.
But while football was an irrelevance on Saturday evening, it was a powerful irrelevance. There was a strength in the unity between the players of Denmark and Finland. The fans who witnessed the devastating chain of events were no longer there to support their country; they were there to support each other.
The decision to restart the match just a couple of hours later was important for the players of Denmark in a show of their collective support for Christian Eriksen and his family. They were honouring his wish to continue with the game.
The emotional and physical release and the togetherness of competing as a team restored an element of normality when it had looked as if it things may never be the same for them again. This is the environment in which they feel most comfortable. But most importantly, it brought them together as a team at a time when they were in desperate need for that unity.
A collective strength
The actions of captain Simon Kjaer and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in consoling Eriksen's wife on the sidelines while dealing with their own emotional struggles complemented the actions of the rest of the team in forming a human shield to protect the dignity of the stricken star. Eriksen may have been fighting a personal battle, but he was never alone.
Messages of hope were delivered across social media from around the world within seconds of Eriksen's collapse. The outpouring of love shown was a testament to how the game brings people together. A few hours later, Romelu Lukaku scored the opening goal for Belgium against Russia and dedicated that to Eriksen.
For the record, Denmark lost 1-0 to Finland. That is nothing more than a minor technicality, but the fact the game was played to a conclusion in the circumstances is a reason to celebrate.
Denmark will not care about defeat; their emotions have already been drained through the events that have scarred them, and through Eriksen's early recovery that would have brought immense relief.
There is a long road ahead for Eriksen and his family, and football is unlikely to play any part in his professional future. However, it is football that will provide him with so much more than a wage and an identity. The power of the game will be in the support he and his family need now more than ever before.
The EURO 2020 tournament has been a long time coming, and it should now be celebrated like never before.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in some way, so restoring a sense of normality through sport has never been more important. To see fans back in the stadiums is uplifting and an experience that has been missed by too many for too long.
Christian Eriksen's collapse has put many things in perspective for many people. The sporting aspect of the game lost meaning as medics rushed to his aid, but the community that the game creates came to the forefront.
Over the years, football has brought solace to millions of people in times of tragedy. Irrelevant in one breath and equally as powerful in another, these are the days that show there is a much deeper meaning to the beautiful game.