‘We feared the worst’: Finland’s Tim Sparv on seeing Eriksen collapse

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<span>Photograph: Hannah McKay/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Hannah McKay/AFP/Getty Images

Tim Sparv, the Finland captain and midfielder, was one of the team playing Denmark in Copenhagen on Saturday when Christian Eriksen collapsed in the 42nd minute. He tells Will Unwin what he saw, what happened next, and how the game restarted after a 108-minute delay.

“We were all just thinking ‘what is going on?’, ‘was he tackled, is that the reason he went down?’. But then we could see he wasn’t moving, you could see the reaction on some of the players’ faces that were close to him, they were in shock, everyone was shouting to get the medical staff on the pitch as soon as possible and you realise this is something serious and then I found out we did not have a player that tried to tackle him, he was just alone and fell down.

Related: Christian Eriksen sends greetings to Denmark teammates from hospital

“You’ve seen these things happen before in football and you imagine the worst. We were in shock. We didn’t know what was going on and we were hoping he was going to come back as soon as possible.

“When we could see he was receiving CPR then you feared the worst. It was taking for ever, we were just in shock, disbelief, we didn’t know what was going on and we were just trying to let the medical staff do their work.

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“After a while we were sent into the dressing room to await further information; we were just talking among ourselves and trying to, me as a captain, making sure everyone was somehow OK, that we dealt with it appropriately, spoke about it and it was a great relief when we heard he was doing OK in the circumstances.

“I spoke to Kasper Schmeichel quite early on about the whole thing. It was a good dialogue, good communication - the referee [Anthony] Taylor, he dealt with it very well. For us, if we didn’t know that Eriksen was doing well we would never have come back out to play again, that was the most important thing for us, that we knew he was in a stable condition.

“There was a great deal of understanding and empathy from both sides. We were not forced to do anything that we didn’t want to do. We were talking with Uefa, the referees, the Danish side, so it was always a good, open discussion of how everybody felt and their personal feelings but it was a psychological challenge for everybody involved, I think this was a day and a game that nobody will forget whether you were a spectator or a player.

We were not forced to do anything that we didn’t want to do

Tim Sparv

“It was a mutual agreement [to carry on] but quite early on we said that it’s important that the Danish team and players get to decide how they want to proceed. We also had players who were really emotional but for us, it was up to the Danish team how they wanted to continue. It was communicated very well from both sides. In the end we made a decision. Yesterday was not about football, it was more about life and death, and I am just so delighted he is doing fine.

“The crowd was unbelievable, we were told by someone while we were sitting in the dressing that both sets of fans were shouting his name and that kind of solidarity, love and support is what football is all about. In so many ways, it was a testament to what football can be about – of course were are rooting for different teams but when it comes to something like this we are all united.

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“Playing on was really tough, really difficult for both sets of teams; you do what you can, you try to get back to that kind of mental state when it is about football but it is always in your head. First thing after the game you are thinking about it, about how he is, whether he is still doing OK, so you did what you needed to do to try and play football but it was not a normal game after that.

“I spoke to Kasper Schmeichel a couple of times during and after the game, he was the one I was speaking to and to the referee and his colleagues. I think both sets of delegations had contact with each other. It was very challenging and difficult circumstances for everyone and I don’t think we have experienced this situation before, so you try to somehow have that kind of dialogue where you have everybody on board, where everyone’s opinion is valued and try to do the best.

Related: Christian Eriksen collapsed and the stadium fell silent in horror

“It wasn’t the kind of atmosphere we usually have after a win but, of course, we are extremely proud that we are in the Euros, that we got our first win but it was a very mild type of celebration after, considering everything. There was no singing in the dressing room, like we usually do after we win. It was a very different feeling after a win during a Euros.

“Some of the staff members have been in dialogue with the Danish federation. We have heard the same as you, he is back to eating, he is stable, so let us hope he continues that way and makes a full recovery and hopefully we can see him back on a football pitch one day. For now it is just important that he has his health, football is secondary when something like this happens.

“You start thinking about your family, for me it’s my girlfriend and five-month-old daughter. I contacted them immediately after what happened to Eriksen and told them how we were feeling. Seeing it up close, the kids in the stadium, kids watching on TV, it can be a very traumatic experience. I hope anyone who needs it will get the help to deal with this, as it can be a very traumatic experience.”

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