Paris (AFP) – The people who saved the life of Denmark’s Christian Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest during the opening match of Euro 2020, received the UEFA President’s Award on Tuesday, the awarding body announced.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin described the nine recipients, who include Denmark captain Simon Kjaer, as “the true heroes of Euro 2020”. 

“I have the utmost admiration for the doctors and medical staff for their outstanding reaction and calmness,” said Ceferin. “Attributes which were crucial in Christian’s resuscitation.”

“This year, the President’s Award transcends football. It serves as an important and eternal reminder of just how precious life is and puts everything in our lives into the clearest perspective.”

Eriksen, 29, collapsed towards the end of the first half of Denmark’s opening match against Finland, his life saved by the quick thinking of his teammates and medical staff at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

Kjaer was first to give emergency treatment on the field and then showed “exceptional leadership qualities” as he formed Eriksen’s teammates into a circle around him as the medical team worked to save the player’s life.

“It’s something that will stay with us for the rest of our lives,” said Kjaer.

“The team reacted as a unit… as a team, we made the maximum effort to stick together and try to get through that situation and be as helpful as possible.”

The other eight recipients are all members of the medical team that came on to assist.

Eriksen, who remained unconscious for several minutes, was saved by a cardiac massage then the electric shock of a defibrillator. 

“We did what we should, what we were taught, what we were trained to do,” said Mogens Kreutzfeld, chief medical officer for the Euro in Copenhagen. 

“Everybody knew their role, everybody knew what to do. We were not emotional at the scene. Afterwards, we were, of course, like everybody.”

– ‘Fantastic job’ –

Eriksen survived the evening and went on to leave hospital, having had a miniature defibrillator implanted.

“I would like to thank Morten [Skjoldager], Morten [Boesen] and the medical team who helped in Parken on 12 June. You did a fantastic job and saved my life,” said Eriksen.

“Also a big thanks to my friend and captain Simon and my teammates in the Danish team for your support, both on 12 June and afterwards.

“Thanks to all the fans who have sent messages to me and my family. It means a lot and has given us strength and support.” 

The Inter Milan midfielder is in “excellent form” according to the Italian club although it is uncertain as to where or whether he will be able to resume his career. 

He is not expected to be back in action for at least six months, whether he stays in Italy, where footballers fitted with a defibrillator cannot play, or finds a new club elsewhere.

The UEFA President’s Award, created in 1998, rewards “exceptional achievement, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities”, in the words of the European body. 

Award winners: 

On-site medical team: Mogens Kreutzfeldt (chief medical officer), Frederik Flensted, (stadium medical manager), Anders Boesen (pitchside emergency doctor), Peder Ersgaard (paramedic)

UEFA Venue Medical Officers: Jens Kleinefeld, Valentin Velikov

Danish national medical team: Morten Skjoldager (physio accompanying the team doctor), Morten Boesen (team doctor), Simon Kjær (Denmark national team captain)