Fans in west London rejoiced Saturday on seeing Christian Eriksen resume his competitive footballing career, 259 days after suffering from a heart attack mid-game.
Even the opposition Newcastle players joined in the applause as Eriksen came on for his Brentford debut during Saturday’s Premier League game. It was seven minutes into the second half when the moment came for the playmaker to remove his grey training bib and appear for the first time on this field in a red-and-white striped Brentford jersey.
"I’m one happy man,” he said after a game tinged with the frustration of a 2-0 loss. "To go through what I’ve been through, being back is a wonderful feeling.”
The substitution had a link to that traumatic day at the European Championship when Eriksen had the world fearing the worst when he collapsed during Denmark’s opening game against Finland. The Brentford player who Eriksen came on for was Mathias Jensen. It was Jensen who replaced Eriksen in the team when that June tournament game resumed later in the day despite the distress of the star being in the hospital with an uncertain fate.
After being resuscitated on the field in Copenhagen and regaining consciousness, Eriksen was later informed he was "gone from this world for five minutes.” Now Eriksen has resumed his professional playing career after being fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.
Brentford was already trailing 2-0 to Newcastle when Eriksen entered with the west London club having to cope with 10 men after a first-half sending off. While Eriksen couldn’t inspire a comeback, he did help to limit the damage, watched in the stadium by not only his family but also the doctors who oversaw the recovery.
"What they’ve been through is even tougher than what I’ve been through,” he said about his family.
The game ended with a moment of normality involving Eriksen. The former Tottenham player wasn’t going over to the referee at the full-time whistle to share a heart-warming moment with Mike Dean but to clearly remonstrate, gesticulating with his hands.
Eriksen’s last domestic match was completing a title-winning season with Inter Milan last May. Now he is at Brentford to help the club stay in the Premier League after a result that leaves the team three points above the relegation zone.
"For everyone involved in football it was a big moment,” said fellow Dane Thomas Frank, the Brentford manager. "It was fantastic to see he got a big reception.”
Brentford stepped in to sign the free agent in the January transfer window after Eriksen’s need for an ICD meant he had to leave Inter Milan due to Italian medical regulations.
Now, after featuring in two warm-up games recently for Brentford without fans, Eriksen has made his competitive return to action – with playing at the World Cup in November his target.
"Hopefully now we should only talk about his feet," Frank said, "and talk about football instead of everything else.”