Denmark’s Christian Eriksen scores in his first international football game since suffering cardiac arrest

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You may consider voting for the Comeback Story of the Year to be complete. Danish soccer star Christian Eriksen took care of it the first time he touched the ball in a friendly against the Netherlands.

“I was gone from this world for five minutes,” Eriksen told the BBC in an interview recalling his near-death experience on a football pitch in June 2021.

On Saturday, he eclipsed the Dutch’s convincing victory with an emotional moment.

Christian Eriksen nearly died in a globally televised match

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen applauds the fans after their 4-2 loss to the Netherlands in Amsterdam. It was his return to international football nine months after nearly dying in a match. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

When Christian Eriksen last took to the pitch to represent Denmark, he nearly died in a UEFA Euro 2020 match against Finland on June 12, 2021. Eriksen collapsed shortly before mid- time and nearly died on the pitch in a game that was televised around the world.

Motionless on the pitch near the baseline, Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest. Doctors on the ground restored his heartbeat, allowing him to be taken to hospital. Three days later, Eriksen posted on social media, announcing that he was resting comfortably. On June 18, he underwent surgery and woke up with an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) in his chest.

While the device gave Eriksen some assurance that he would not experience a repeat of the near-tragedy, his footballing future was in doubt. Italian Serie A does not allow ICDs which ended his career with Inter Milan.

However, Brentford of the English Premier League offered a short-term deal and Eriksen returned to top-flight action in February, 259 days after the incident in Copenhagen.

Christian Eriksen scores in return to international football

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Denmark and the Netherlands have qualified for the World Cup tournament in Qatar from November 21, and both teams are using the remaining international windows this spring and summer to pick up friendlies to keep players sharpened and to assess potential changes in composition. The national teams played on Saturday, with the host Dutch side claiming a 4-2 victory.

However, there was an emotional moment two minutes after Eriksen came on as a half-time substitute. The first time Eriksen took possession of the ball, he shot goalkeeper Mark Flekken once to bring the Danes to 3-2. It was his first goal in any game since May 2021 while playing in the Italian League.

“I felt very welcomed (by the Dutch fans),” Eriksen told Sky Sports. “I have been here for many years. So, of course, they know me. But it was a very warm welcome for sure. I was happy the ball came to me and of course it was a nice finish. Starting the return to international football like this was the perfect way.

“I’m looking forward to playing in the Qatar World Cup, but there are a lot of games between the two and I’m focusing on them.”

Impressive medical technology paved the way for replay

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Christian Eriksen is likely the first World Cup-caliber player to return to action with an implantable cardiac defibrillator, which can restart the heart after cardiac arrest, the BBC has reported. Such episodes are rare in fit young athletes, and the underlying cause is usually genetic or the result of disease-induced heart damage. Eriksen said there was no history of heart disease like this in his family.

The ICD, about half the size of a small cell phone, sits under the skin or muscle of the chest. The batteries last up to 10 years and can be replaced in a relatively simple procedure.

We call it a shock box,” said London cardiologist Dr Michael Papadakis. “It takes care of your rhythm and, if it detects a very fast and life-threatening irregularity, it will shock you and restart the heart.”

Vigorous physical activity was considered prohibited for people with ICDs until a Yale University study was published in 2015.

“It’s a good thing of a bad thing that happened,” Eriksen said. “People are now more grateful and more capable of being able to save someone. So hopefully this turns into something positive that saves a lot of people who are in the same situation as me.

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