COPENHAGEN – Ulrich Ammundsen was stunned and confused by what he had just seen, what he was feeling, and what he was supposed to do. Christian Eriksen, star of the Denmark national team, had just collapsed on the ground, moments before the break of the match between his country and Finland for the group stage of Euro 2020. Ammundsen, a witness from the stands, saw how the player collapsed, saw him limping, saw his teammates forming a circle around him, while the doctors exerted pressure on his chest.
When Ammundsen got home late Saturday night, he found himself staring into his bathroom mirror, unable to process what had happened a few hours earlier.
Even after Eriksen’s transfer to the hospital, and even after it was known that Eriksen was alive and stable, Ammundsen (who is the representative manager of the host city for fan zones located in Copenhagen) found it difficult to process his emotions. He wanted to say something, he wanted to express his feelings for Eriksen, he wanted to tell Eriksen the meaning of his incredible success for the Danish people. He wanted to make clear his deep wish that Eriksen could get back up.
But Ammundsen didn’t know how to do it. So on that night as she finally gave in to sleep and her mind was still riding the roller coaster of emotions she had just experienced, she had an idea. There is a wall in the fan zone, he told his wife in the morning. Eriksen’s photo is already there. How about we turn the wall into a gigantic letter to Eriksen, he said, signed by all Danes who wish to sign it?
Ammundsen headed to his job. He commented to his colleagues. Everyone loved the idea, believing it would be something meaningful and therapeutic. But Ammundsen realized they had no markers, and was quick to call his wife, asking her to buy some. She went to the supermarket and dropped them off at the office near the port. And in the early hours of Sunday morning, the first person (who, by the way, was visiting the fan zone as part of a group of heart attack survivors) took a marker and wrote a message addressed to Eriksen. And another fan followed him. And other. And other.
Ammundsen stepped back to watch the scene. “I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to send a message,” he says now. “And here it is.”
There are multiple details of what happened that Saturday that are still unknown; Therefore, we do not yet know what happened in the midst of the Denmark team’s preparations to play again, specifically this Thursday against Belgium. What exactly happened to lead Eriksen into cardiac arrest? And after the doctors were able to rescue him in a heroic effort, what repercussions will the incident have on his future life?
The answers to these questions will require more time. What we know for sure is the depth of the sensations spread across this country, as soon as Eriksen hit the pitch.
In this nation, football represents an incredible point of pride for the Danish people, and Eriksen’s success (first with Ajax Amsterdam, followed by Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League and in the recently concluded campaign with Inter Milan in Italy) has long been an element that allowed Danish fans to delight. To have Eriksen (born in 1992, the year of the only title obtained so far by the Denmark national team at the European Championship, in the small town of Middlefart) as the leader of the squad during this tournament, in which Denmark has for the first time the possibility of Playing Eurocup matches in his yard was a cause for national jubilation.
And suddenly, that happiness was cut short. Patrick Hoff Sonne, a 32-year-old Danish fan, was sitting six rows from the pitch, right on the same side as the incident. She indicates that she initially believed that Eriksen had fainted or dizzy from dehydration. However, the belief only lasted a few seconds, because when doctors began to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a horrible silence spread throughout the stadium. “A cemetery silence,” he says. It was there that Sonne became ill.
“I saw Christian Eriksen’s girlfriend” a few rows away, Sonne says, and “she was holding [uno de sus] children”. A friend who was accompanying Sonne to the stadium had just had a baby boy, and he started crying next to him. Sonne felt trapped. “I had to take my eyes off the situation.”
Sonne left the stadium. He felt compelled to leave, as he recalls, even after hearing that Eriksen was awake during his transfer to the hospital. For Sonne, shock, disbelief, and fear mixed within her being; And while there was a possibility of resuming the match (which eventually happened), Sonne knew that he was in no condition to cheer on a soccer team.
In the days since, Sonne has struggled, like Ammundsen, to come up with a way to accept seeing a person for whom he has such deep feelings in such a state of gravity. Danish defensive midfielder Thomas Delaney said he and his teammates have been extremely comforted by talking openly to each other about their feelings (“We have all fought differently, in each other’s way”); However, Sonne is one of those who has preferred to avoid talking too much about the situation.
“I try to stay away from the advances, from the social networks and everything,” he says. “I have not seen the wall yet.”
Bursts into tears. “I have not been able to write on it.”
One day earlier in the week, a husband and wife couple approached Ammundsen, right in front of the wall. They carried a photo in their hands and wanted to stick it to the wall. Ammundsen asked them what it was about, and they explained that their son-in-law was one of the doctors who ran onto the court to save Eriksen’s life.
The photograph consisted of an image of the health professional, leaving his home for work that same day, a few hours after the start of the game.
“When she got home that night, her 6-year-old daughter was already asleep,” explains Irene Dahl. “The next morning when he woke up, he said, ‘Daddy, you’re my hero.’
Ammundsen led them to the wall and held up the markers as they attached the photograph. Permille Hansen, an elementary school teacher, also took a moment to stamp her rubric as some of her students played on the adjacent small soccer field. Hansen had obviously seen the game, but was urged to go to school on Monday morning to hear her students, who are mostly 14 years old, talk to each other about what happened. That day, some went directly to the wall.
“It is important,” he says. “Some students felt a little scared, and it is important to talk about it. Writing this message is important to me. He’s a brilliant soccer player, great; but it is also [pareja] and father of a family. We can all relate to it, can’t we? “
Ammundsen, who was standing near Hansen, nodded. The teacher returned to tend to her children; however, another man approached shortly after. Later, it was a group of adolescent males. Another group of students. A businessman in the middle of his work break.
The messages have already spilled over a corner of the original wall and in a short time, according to Ammundsen, they will have to remove some advertising panels from the Heineken brewery to make room for other notes.
“We were all affected by what we saw,” says Ammundsen. “It was very emotional.”
Then smile. “We will buy all the markers that are necessary.”