In the moments after Christian Eriksen’s collapse during the opening game of Euro 2020 in Denmark, a father paced around Sankt Jakobs Plads, a scenic square from which, past a church and some old floodlights, you can see the Parken stadium.
Peter Mondrup had left his parental apartment above the square and was now thinking about the unimaginable.
“I was mentally preparing how to tell my kids that Christian had passed away,” says the 45-year-old, whose youngest boy is nine. How can I tell them what happened to their hero? How can I tell them that what they saw had the worst possible outcome?’
Christian Eriksen’s collapse at Euro 2020 is remembered as a ‘horror show’ in Denmark
Fans were stunned when the country’s playmaker collapsed on June 12
Half an hour earlier, he and his friend Lars Janus and their families were in front of the television when Eriksen, just a few hundred yards away, had tripped and fallen onto the turf. He had had a cardiac arrest.
“At first we laughed, it looked like he had tripped,” says Peter. ‘Then you realize that something is seriously wrong, it was in his eyes.
‘I immediately sent my youngest children out of the room, I wanted to protect them. The older children stayed. We all had tears in our eyes. You can’t underestimate how popular Christian is here.’
Unlike in the UK, Danish television cut off the footage of Eriksen being treated immediately after the horror of the first chest compressions. Peter and Lars came to the square looking for news.
Sportsmail met them this week in the garden of the PS Bar & Grill in Sankt Jakobs Plads. From here, earlier on that sunny Saturday afternoon of June 12, the buzz of happiness and anticipation could be heard in Peter’s apartment.
Devastated supporters watched in tears and the memory will have a lasting impact
So what scene did the friends find shortly after 7pm?
‘Silence,’ says Lars. ‘All you could hear here was the big television screen. It was surreal. The all over ‘Eriksen’ shirts made it all the more shocking. So many people, so little noise.’
For Peter, the image will never leave him.
“Great men, they were crying all around us, crying all the way. Seeing the chest compressions, argh… it wasn’t good, it was devastating. It confirmed what we feared.
“But then there was no update, nothing.”
‘Honestly?’ says Lars. “We thought he was dead, we thought he was completely gone. If they knew he was still alive when he finally left the stadium, they should have told us on national TV that it was wrong for them not to.”
Those watching the scenes feared the worst when Eriksen was covered in a white sheet
“But they didn’t want to give false hope. When he was taken away with the white sheets wrapped around him, I said to Lars, “He’s definitely not awake. If he’s still alive, why don’t you show him?”
“My expectations were very, very low. The longer it went without good news, it got worse and worse.’
Just yards away and at the outside bar was serving Nathan Rowe, who is originally from Brighton.
“It went from a rowdy crowd to being able to hear a penny drop,” says the 31-year-old. ‘So it was complete silence. Everyone clutched at the mouth.
‘I just stood here, nobody bought anything to drink. Some people ran away, they couldn’t look. Everyone was looking at their phones. There was confusion.’
A short distance from here in Osterbrogade, fans in the bars around Trianglen St. Metro would have witnessed the sobering sight of the ambulance taking Eriksen to Rigshospitalet, just 1km from the stadium. Unbeknownst to them, he was conscious.
Denmark players came forward with huge praise for forming a ring around their fallen teammate
Eriksen recovered remarkably, but there is no news whether he will play football again
Finally, an hour after Eriksen collapsed, a message appeared on the national broadcaster’s screen – he was alive and stable in the hospital.
‘I remember the sound, a huge inhalation of air when the news came out and then cheering and clapping,’ Nathan says. “It was like being in a horror movie before that. I was suddenly busy again, it was just pure relief.’
Then the confirmation came that the game against Finland would continue. Denmark, a team and a country in shock, deservedly lost 1-0.
“There was a lot of anger and rage when I had to play,” Nathan says. “We received about 250 people who went to the game. Only about 30 came back after that. Nobody wanted to drink. That night was creepy.’
But out of the horror came hope and unity, in Denmark and beyond.
The episode brought the country together after news that Eriksen was alive and stable in the hospital
‘We felt the whole world coming together,’ says Peter. “Sometimes we realize we’re more alike than we normally think. We have Brexit and our differences, but when you see something like that, everyone is the same, everything else disappears.’
Denmark reached the semi-finals, but lost to England at Wembley. They returned to Parks for the first time on Wednesday when they defeated Scotland 2-0 in front of a sold-out crowd.
To be there and in Copenhagen before and after the game was to experience an uplifting connection between players and audience. Long past full-time, the team — hand in hand — still saluted all four corners of the ground.
They’re doing well here. The beer is flowing but there is no threat. You feel safe and welcome. There are women, children, old and young, a really merry atmosphere in a place that for a short time in June threatened to be the scene of eternal sorrow.
Denmark’s squad will be remembered as heroes as they prepare for their World Cup qualifiers
They have an unofficial code of conduct in Denmark called Jante Law, which encourages humility and in turn collectivism.
‘Eriksen has that,’ says Lars, ‘that’s why he is so loved. But they all do – Simon Kjaer, Kasper Schmeichel, these guys are national heroes. What happened to Christian strengthened support for the national team. We saw how they protected him on the field. There is special respect for those players.
“I was in the stadium for the game against Russia (won 4-1 to qualify for the second round). It was without a doubt the most emotional match I have ever seen.
“There is a new love for the team, a stronger support. Those nights in Parks now… they’re magical.