Christian Eriksen (29) dreams of playing in the Qatar World Cup towards the end of the year. Ståle Solbakken believes it proves that the Danish star is through the most intense mental obstacle after the cardiac arrest.
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In an interview with DR, Eriksen made it clear that his collapse against Finland in Denmark’s first match in the European Championship finals this summer will not be his last appearance for the national team.
– My goal is to play the World Cup in Qatar. I want to play there, said Denmark’s big star in his first big interview after the drama this summer.
– I will not speak on his behalf, but then there are many indications that he is through the biggest challenge: To get through mentally and trust his body. He has shown that he can play football. So it’s good, says Ståle Solbakken.
Norway’s national team manager fell even with cardiac arrest during training with FC Copenhagen in 2001. He ended his playing career after the incident. Other top players such as Fabrice Muamba (collapsed in the match for Bolton) and Carl-Erik Torp (had a cardiac arrest during the match for Brann) have also done so.
While Ajax’s national team veteran Daley Blind (31) plays with a pacemaker after being diagnosed with myocarditis. Now clubless Christian Eriksen also wants to continue playing at the top level.
– If I had said that I want to play football again, I do not think I would have been stopped. I got the “yellow light”. But I felt my career was a couple of years away from the end and I thought it was easiest for everyone that I quit. Had I been 25 years old and single, I think I would have played on. But it is impossible to compare these scenarios. You must have a diagnosis and know the background material, and I do not do that with Eriksen, says Solbakken.
He was 33 years old and married to a father of two when the cardiac arrest occurred. Solbakken never asked the doctors how safe it would be to continue his playing career afterwards.
– I never got there. I just made the decision, says the Norwegian national team manager.
Where Christian Eriksen will play, is currently uncertain. He was released from his contract with Inter just before Christmas, because it is against the rules of Italian top football to play with an implanted defibrillator.
Without Eriksen in the European Championships, Denmark lost the first two matches, but still went all the way to the semifinals against England at Wembley. Since then, they have qualified in superb style for the Qatar World Cup and are the world’s ninth best team according to the FIFA ranking.
But Solbakken believes it will not be professionally difficult to lift the star back in the squad for national team manager Kasper Hjulmand.
– No, not if he gets to the level he was. I know Kasper Hjulmand well and the way he wants to play. I’m almost sure he sees this as a gift, smiles the former FC Copenhagen manager.
In a recent documentary about the Danish national team, also available from the Danish state broadcaster DR, several key players put into words the experience with Eriksen from this summer.
Team captain Simon Kjær – who was in the middle of the drama, first took care of the unconscious Eriksen and then the star player’s cohabitant – strongly opposes that the Finland match was held the same evening.
Denmark lost 0-1 in the Park after the match resumed.
– I would like to make that decision again. Then I should have been indifferent to the results or consequences, says Simon Kjær, who in the documentary admits that he still finds it difficult to talk freely about the horror incident.
Against Belgium four days later, Kjær knew he was going to start, but says that he traveled to the Park without knowing if he would really be able to play the match.
– You are in doubt about where you are. Are you going to play football tonight, or not play football tonight? But then you came into the Park, and it was a different atmosphere, describes Kjær.