The scare surrounding Christian Eriksen is certainly not an isolated one with Indian football witnessing a similar scenario in the quarter-finals of the 2018-19 edition of the U-18 Youth League.
The world of football was still struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic when it was forced to come to terms with one of the most heartbreaking moments in the history of the game. The ongoing Euro 2020 had provided fans with an opportunity to relish some of the most exciting football ever, providing some distraction from the pain and suffering in all corners of the world. There was a lot of excitement in the air as Denmark took on Finland in the third match of the popular tournament. The latter were making their debut with the Danes boasting of the likes of Christian Eriksen, Kasper Schmeichel, Andreas Christensen among others. Eriksen, hailed by many as Denmark’s heartbeat has always been a fan-favourite because of his stylish gameplay, inch-perfect skills from a dead-ball scenario.
The Inter Milan midfielder’s every move was cheered on by the fans, as he left the masses in a state of exhilaration with an opener seeming like a mere formality. However, things took a horrible turn in the 42nd minute as the ball went out of play for a Denmark throw-in. The 29-year-old rushed to receive the ball but collapsed face-first as the ball hit his knee.
Medical staff rushed in to resuscitate Eriksen, with fans in a state of total shock. The Danish players huddled in a tight circle, with their faces clearly showcasing the struggle to hold back their emotions. Prayers poured in from all corners of the world with fans showering their support behind the footballer. Eriksen has thankfully managed to make a soaring comeback, which is some much-needed good news during these tough times.
However, the incident is certainly not an isolated one with Indian football witnessing a similar scenario a few years back in the quarter-finals of the 2018-19 edition of the U-18 Youth League. Former Minerva Punjab footballer Makan Chote rushed in to latch on to the ball and score, having failed to pay heed to the Reliance Foundation goalkeeper who was running in. The two players collided due to the intensity of the moment with great force. As the other players waited for the footballers to recover for the game to be resumed, they suddenly noticed a complete lack of response from Chote.
“I was shocked, having never witnessed such a scenario in my career. Chote had completely stopped responding. The brain stops working in such moments, with the Eriksen scare definitely bringing back some painful memories,” said midfielder Thoiba Singh, who was on the field that day.
The alarming situation could have well ended on a tragic note, if not for the only person with knowledge about responding to such a scenario.
“All the players and personnel on the ground were stunned. None of them had been provided proper training for this kind of a scenario, leaving them rooted to the spot. I rushed in at this stage and performed CPR, having been guided in this regard, fortunately. Thankfully, he responded to my efforts and was able to make a recovery soon due to timely assistance. However, I shudder to think about the scenario in case I was not present. There was a possibility of a tragic tale, costing Indian football massively due to the loss of a top talent. It’s even more painful if we look at this from the point of view of his family,” said Ranjit Bajaj, the director at Minerva Punjab Football Club.
Chote went on to make his presence felt in the semi-final against Kerala Blasters FC, delivering a splendid performance. The footballer maintained the glorious run in the final against FC Goa, with the club interestingly going on to sign him soon after. All this would never have been possible if not for Bajaj who stepped in when the occasion demanded a hero. This glorious anecdote indicates the massive impact that medical staff with the right knowledge can help ensure.
Bajaj believes that the terrible incident involving Eriksen should spark the beginning of a new revolution with regard to ensuring optimum standards in Indian football.
“I have seen a lot of people giggling and laughing when provided training with regard to CPR. I hope we learn our lessons from the cautionary tale and give it the seriousness it deserves. There are a lot of matches in Indian football in the lower leagues, which witness alarming levels of incompetence when it comes to the training and skills of the medical staff. Players are encouraged to walk it off, in case of a major injury with the lack of proper guidance when needed sidelining footballers for a long term or costing them their careers in many cases. The Indian team is looking to qualify for the World Cup with an eye on creating the next Ronaldo or Messi. Unless there is focus on the basics with proper training imparted to medical personnel, a lot of talented players may fail to reach their due potential,” he added.
Bajaj has further urged AIFF to work towards developing a squad that performs as a unit, rather than looking to focus simply on physical strength.
“There is a misconception that Indian football’s success lies solely in churning out sides that are physically strong. We need to perform as a unit like the scenario in case of Japan. If you see Pep Guardiola’s teams in Bayern Munich and Barcelona, he never pushed players to develop a bulky figure. It was all about positional play and performing as a unit. The same needs to be implemented in our setup. The current Indian team is too reliant on Sunil Chhetri like the scenario with Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus. If Ronaldo has a bad day, Juventus fail to record a win which should never be encouraged. If we consider the last 18 goals scored by India, 11 of them were scored by Chhetri. I shudder at the sight of the final scoreline if our legendary footballer fails to get the job done.”
The future of Indian football is certainly bright. However, there is a need to focus on developing the right setup and platform for our emerging youngsters if we aspire to truly excel in the sport.