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'We got the right result - Christian survived. He is one of between five and eight percent who survive'

Pat Nevin was doing live commentary on the game in which Christian Eriksen collapsed, and he reflected on the experience on this week’s Behind the Lines.

Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated Jun 15th 2021, 3:16 PM

THIS WEEK’S GUEST on Behind the Lines is broadcaster and retired footballer Pat Nevin, who found himself on live commentary duties for BBC Radio on Denmark’s Euro 2020 meeting with Finland, which will forever be remembered as the game in which Christian Eriksen collapsed. 

Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest but was revived on the pitch by medics, and was then brought to hospital. He communicated with his team-mates via FaceTime and the game ultimately resumed. 

Eriksen remains in hospital, but posted on social media today, “I’m fine — under the circumstances, I still have to go through some examinations at the hospital, but I feel okay.”

“It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do”, reflected Pat on finding himself on air for the horrifying episode. “I knew immediately, but that’s because I have been through this a number of times before. I had to cover Marc-Vivien Foé, when he died. I was working then for Channel 5.

“Worse than that, as it was personal, when I was CEO of Motherwell we lost a young player. I’ve been involved in setting up, via the PFA, the Cardiomyopathy checks, when I was chairman there. The CEO Gordon Taylor and I worked really hard to make sure those checks were in place. Now the clubs are doing it themselves. 

“But it’s nothing to do with me. It’s to do with Christian Eriksen and what everyone else was going through. It doesn’t matter if you were a fan at the game or watching on television or listening on radio, for the people down there, the players, referee, his friends and family…horrendous. 

“We’ll go through a lot of games in this tournament and there’s only one result I give a stuff about, and we got the right result: Christian survived it. He is one of between five and eight percent who survive.

“It was horrendously difficult to talk over and talk about, always knowing you cannot say too much of what you know or think you know because his family or close friends could be listening. And you certainly don’t speculate. As a broadcaster it’s one of the hardest things to do.” 

Pat says the live television coverage lingered on the pitch for too long.

“They should have [cut away.] I think that was a mistake: they stayed too long and should not have zoomed in on chest compressions. I was seeing more than everyone else as we didn’t get pictures cut, so I saw him getting shocks. You then knew how incredibly serious it was. I think there were errors made, but they know that themselves. 

“It’s a production decision. And to be honest, they usually get it right. They are usually pretty sharp. That’s a lesson learned, and a lesson learned that thank goodness didn’t have the worst consequences, as had it had the worst consequences, then the outcry would have been understandably extraordinary. And rightly so.” 

The footage did show the creditable response of everyone in the stadium: the medics who saved Eriksen’s life most obviously, but also the referee who stopped the game instantly, Eriksen’s team-mates who first administered CPR and then formed a protective shield around their stricken friend and the supporters, all of whom later sang Eriksen’s name and some of whom handed out banners to screen Eriksen as he was taken from the pitch. 

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denmark-finland-euro-2020-soccer The Danish players encircle Eriksen. Source: WOLFGANG RATTAY

“It shows you the innate humanity”, says Pat.

“You often hear football fans being described as a number of negative things and if you pick up the papers you’ll think they are all racists, and of course it’s rubbish. Within it you have a variety of personalities. You can see what the vast majority of fans are like. They are generally decent people. It was good to see the decency and humanity in that situation.” 

You can listen to the full interview by subscribing at members.the42.ie. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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