I had started penning this article a week ago, with the title – a gentle escapism from the harsh reality of life…
Events in the Denmark game have swiftly rendered that title meaningless.
Permit me to express my thoughts prior to the Denmark game.
There was a lad I used to teach back in 2007, when he was in Year 11. Lovely lad, a bit salty at times, but a genuinely nice kid with ingrained manners. Working at the time, in a rather more nefarious school, these types of students rather stood out. There were two other lads in there and before the world went ‘pc’ mad – after they had left, they added me on Facebook and we have remained in touch (albeit through Facebook ‘likes’) ever since. Those lads are all 30 now.
The aforementioned lad was from Bristol. Born and bred.
Who did he support? Newcastle.
Because his dad did.
I had been aware that his dad wasn’t well, but hadn’t realised the extent of his illness until a few weeks ago when he wrote a heartfelt post on Facebook explaining that his dad was coming home to spend the remaining days of his life and to be with his family and beloved dog. And the bit of the post that caught my eye – ‘he was able to watch his beloved Toon play’.
He passed away peacefully several days ago.
I never met the father but it just got me thinking that football really does provide us with an alternative universe in which to absorb us. It unites us, provides and forms bonds, and can truly be a medium with which we can absorb ourselves and for a short while, forget about the real world and all that may be good (or bad) in it.
I have also genuinely been struck by a few recent articles on here, from fellow MFW writers, who relay articulately and emotively, the shared experiences that football allowed them. And I’m not ashamed to say that Gary’s article brought a tear to my eye.
My own father has never really been into football, yet has watched Norwich a handful of times over the last few decades. His three Carrow Road visits being; my first ever match (2-1 v Leicester in 1994), Paul Lambert’s debut – 5-1 v Wycombe and 2019 Sheff Weds 2-2, with Super Mario’s last-minute equaliser. Dad has little interest in football, but the shared experiences are ones I will treasure for the remainder of my life.
Which brings me back to Denmark. An utterly harrowing experience and a stark reminder that perhaps football doesn’t always provide escapism. For 15 minutes, we literally watched a man pass away. It is beyond comprehension that a camera will cut away as soon as anyone enters the field of play. Yet the host feed did not cut away from Eriksen’s plight.
And yes, I could have turned over.
Why didn’t I? Because I wanted to see that he was going to be ‘ok’. Human nature was screaming for me to help, yet I couldn’t. I was powerless. The more I watched, the more I realised that things were not looking good.
Did we need to see a close-up of CPR? Perhaps not. But what I will take away from that scene, is the need to renew my long since expired First Aid Training.
And the relief that washed over me when that first photo of him ALIVE, was immense.
I spent a lot of last night pondering what would happen if I or any of my golfing partners collapsed on the course. Given the apparent speed with which one needs to be treated, I suspect our chances would be slim. And for that, I am so glad Eriksen had this collapse during a game, rather than perhaps on his own at home.
One of my grandfathers had a heart attack on a tee box (1970), so long before I was even thought of. But my mind did wander to how his playing partners must have felt.
My commendations to the entire Denmark team for how they acted and for the fans of both teams. I can’t imagine anyone who watched the ‘Christian’ – ‘Eriksen’ chant, not welling up. I know I did.
Life is short. Football does provide escapism. Nevertheless – it unites us in euphoria – or at times, grief.
Sending my best to all MFW readers, writers and their families, alike.