During Denmark’s opening match against Finland in the Euros on 12 June, star player Christian Eriksen collapses to the ground after playing a pass. It is a tense and upsetting moment. The worst is poised, speculating. Echoes of Fabrice Muamba’s career-ending cardiac arrest ring well and truly in everyone’s mind. Denmark Captain Simon Kjaer takes his call to duty.
Kjaer sprints over from his centre-back position while both Danish and Finnish players are screaming for the paramedic and takes initiative. He places Eriksen in the recovery position – an imperative move given the chance that the player could have swallowed his own tongue while unconscious.
Then, Simon Kjaer takes it upon himself to administer vital CPR in the time it took for the medical staff to arrive.
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A wave of paramedics truck onto the pitch carrying a stretcher. Eriksen’s teammates had to watch with tears in their eyes as he was loaded on and carried off. All except one.: Captain Simon Kjaer once again.
He orders his Danish teammates to form a wall around the medics treating Eriksen; done out of sheer respect for their friend. They know of the prying TV cameras who will do anything to get a shot of this horrific incident. Kjaer once again shows his class.
Eriksen’s wife Sabrina had dashed down from the stands, visibly distraught. In possibly his biggest display of humanity, Kjaer and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel head over to comfort and reassure her. For all three of them, as well as everyone on the pitch, the match is the last thing on their minds now. The only thing that matters is Eriksen’s safety.
The game was postponed for a few hours before resuming again in the evening. Denmark tried to bravely carry on but succumbed to a 1-0 defeat. The game was Finland’s, but there was only one true hero that day.
Simon Kjaer displayed such humility, leadership, and bravery in the face of a terrifying ordeal. He showed the whole world what it takes to be the captain of your country in a way that so many could learn from.
Being a leader in any walk of life requires a great deal of strength and courage, as well as a huge sacrifice of ego. Simon Kjaer demonstrated all of this on that fateful day. He could well have been the difference in Christian Eriksen living and dying. And he is the type of leader that I would want to play for.