The protective shield Christian Eriksen’s team-mates embrace him with is both wonderful and awful to behold

THERE’S so much to unpack in this photograph, I’m not quite sure where to start.

At the heart of this scene there is something truly ghastly, but that itself brings to the fore all that’s beautiful about humanity — life, love, wisdom and compassion.

The photo also comes with its own unforgettable soundtrack, the sound of Finnish fans chanting “Christian” and their Danish counterparts responding with “Eriksen”. That was quite something, too.

The protective shield Christian Eriksen’s team-mates embrace him with is both wonderful and awful to behold.

The men linking arms to encircle him look incredibly vulnerable too. Some look on because they have to, others look away.

We must acknowledge the fact that, as horrified as we are, we can’t help but look on.

It’s impossible to tear your eyes away from evidence of the mortality that we all share.

The players’ protective ring preserves his dignity, but also saves us from ourselves.

These young men ordinarily stride the big stage with some swagger. It’s an achievement against all the odds to become any kind of professional foot-baller, let alone an international.

They’re hard-working, dedicated, blessed with great confidence and skill and they’re doubtless vastly wealthy too.

But here we see them for what they really are, what we all really are when faced with such crises, merely bewildered, frightened human beings quite unable to compute what we’re faced with.


A few minutes earlier, I’m sure they all felt indestructible. At the moment this picture was taken they’re coming to terms with feeling rather differently about themselves, and life itself.

Not for the first time, footballers, a frequently maligned species, show us how we might all aspire to be, in a team, as one, unashamedly emotional and all the more masculine for that.

Later on, when Romelu Lukaku scored for Belgium against Russia, he ran over to a TV camera, cupped the lens and shouted: “Chris, Chris, stay strong boy, I love you.”

We’re often told that men are poor at showing emotion to express their true feelings. If this is the case, then it is footballers who best show us the way forward.

They are good at kicking balls, but also brilliant at having the balls to let their feelings out. It’s better that way.

They speak, without blushing, of loving each other. They hug in public, and even have the odd kiss.

And why not? They also share their despair and aren’t afraid to cry. They have the courage to succeed and fail in public. The rest of us can learn from them.

There’s something else critically important in that picture, albeit hidden from us. And it goes way beyond the emotion of the moment.

That thing is expertise. Simon Kjaer, the team captain, knew what to do at the moment it really mattered.

Demonstrating more grace under pressure than he’ll ever need on the field of play, he seemed to be the first to recognise the gravity of the situation and had the wherewithal to clear his team-mate’s airways and prepare him for the CPR that would shortly save Christian Eriksen’s life.

“Ah yes,” I thought, watching it. “CPR. Very important.” And then I realised that while I knew what it was, and had a vague idea how to do it, I couldn’t even tell you what it stands for.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, since you ask. Ok, let’s stick with CPR. But the point is you don’t need to be captain of a football team to know how to do it, it is the duty of all of us to get ourselves educated and practised in these matters.

It could save a life, and that life will be worth no more or less than Christian Eriksen’s. If his captain hadn’t taken the trouble to learn this stuff at some stage, the picture we’re so captivated by would have a much darker meaning.

I keep thinking about what Teddy Sheringham told me when I interviewed him for these pages last week about the importance of being a team — of looking out for each other and every player taking responsibility for making the next player’s job easier.

He also talked about how adversity could bring a team closer together and drive them on. I’m not sure, in terms of Denmark’s performance in this tourn-ament, whether that’s going to apply here. But in any case, it’s beside the point.

They’ve shown us they’re truly a team in a way that transcends anything that could happen in the course of play.

We stand in admiration and wish them all, especially Christian Eriksen, nothing but the best.


WHENEVER the Euros come around, I recall an encounter I had more than ten years ago in a hotel pool in Norwich.

I’d dragged my kids there so I could get to see West Brom play at Carrow Road later in the day. I got talking to a guy about my age with kids of his own.

“I used to be a Norwich fan,” he told me. I pulled a quizzical face and asked him why he was no longer a proud Canary.

His reply sticks in my mind. He explained that three years earlier he’d been on holiday in Greece for the last two weeks of the 2004 Euros.

He became caught up in their unlikely march to the final to the extent that he came to feel part of it.

And then, when they won the title, the explosion of joy was such that he realised nothing in football – or at least in Norwich – could ever come close to matching it.

So he completely gave the game up.

I have some sympathy with this – I’d never do the same thing myself, but I definitely see where he was coming from.


WHEN I worked on ITV Sport I had lots of great colleagues, on and off screen, not least Roy Keane.

I sometimes felt rather sorry for us because, however hard Lee Dixon, Andy Townsend or countless others worked, all anyone watching at home seemed to remember after the show was something Roy said, or even merely a look he gave me.

Not that we begrudged Roy this, he was a joy to be with, both on and off screen.

In the street at that time all I was ever asked by members of the public was, “What’s Roy Keane like?” At home, abroad, wherever, I grew to sense when the question was coming.

I’d just say, “He’s great”, as soon as they opened their mouths.

This weekend, for obvious reasons, Fabrice Muamba has been on my mind.

It was my privilege to go to interview him at his home a few months after his dreadful near-death experience at White Hart Lane.

“Can I ask you something?” Fabrice said. “Of course,” I nodded.
“What’s Roy Keane like?” he asked.

This was surely the Roy Keane enquiry to end all Roy Keane enquiries.


UNLIKE some, I don’t have a strong view on whether Joe Biden needs to be sent to the Tower of London for wearing sunglasses in the company of Her Majesty the Queen.

Surely, after all her years on the throne, she is relaxed about these “protocol” matters.

I’m just delighted that the mizzle cleared, and the sun shone on the Cornish corner of her queendom, for long enough to necessitate the wearing of sunglasses in the first place.

I’m also somewhat relieved that the leader of the free world is, unlike me, compos mentis enough to lay his hands on his sunglasses when he needs them.

I can only ever find mine if it is raining. When the sun shines, they vanish.

The only things I’ve lost more than sunglasses in my life are my marbles, and my patience with myself.


EVER since I was an adolescent on holiday in my mum’s country, I’ve been admiring Croatian women from afar.

And I mean from afar. I’m far too intimidated by their beauty to go anywhere near them, let alone actually presume to address them in any way.

Apart from anything else, they invariably seem to be taller than me, and I’m 6ft 1in.

There’s no escaping them. Check out the Croatian support at Wembley on Saturday. Frightening.

I was wondering whose fans I’d sit with if England and Croatia met in the final. It won’t be this lot. Far too scary.

I think I’d just stay at home.

RE the tips in yest-erday’s Sun about how to have sex like a Scandanavian I have only this to say: I’ve often idly wondered what tantric sex is all about but, having seen the photo accomp-anying the piece, I now know for sure it isn’t for me

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