Hang your heads in shame UEFA.

Published: Tuesday, 15 June 2021

So now we know. The three choices UEFA gave Denmark weren’t choices at all. They were threats. What a disgusting, mis-placed, crass piece of poor organisation and mis-management.

We know because Peter Schmechiel told us on ITV’s GMB. My guess is that he’s got a pretty good source in the Danish camp so his info is spot on.

Here are the choices the Danish team were given - given to a group of guys that had just witnessed something from a horror movie - not a football match. 1. You play on tonight. 2. You come back tomorrow and finish the game. 3. You forfeit the match 3-0. My goodness. Really? And you want the guys to make a call on that? What an absolute disgrace. I’m as angry about it all today as I was watching it all unfold on Sunday night. UEFA owe Christian Eriksen, his family, the Danish football team and the country as a whole, a deep and meaningful apology.  

Let’s remind ourselves of the circumstances. The guys have ‘lost’ one of their mates. A father. A son. A partner. A person - not a ‘player’. A human. And what happened to Eriksen is a stark reminder to all of us how fragile life is.

They’ve behaved impeccably. They draw looka defensive ring around their mate to block prying eyes. They know what’s happening. They know they ‘lost’ Eriksen before their medical team performed a miracle. They’ve seen his partner Sabrina Kvist Jensen in pieces. Watching it unfold was difficult enough. Being part of it was a nightmare.

There was a time I was convinced that we’d lost Eriksen forever. We didn’t know. Only they knew. The body language told its own story. What was actually 1 hour and 40 mins felt like forever. A dribble of information started - pictures on the social media - vague speculation - and then the things we were hearing all started to point in the right direction. We all heaved a huge sigh of relief. Wow. Wonderful.

But then news comes that it’s ‘game on’. I couldn’t believe my ears. No. Surely not. This has to be a sick joke. No chance. No-one could play a football match after what we’ve all seen. After what the players have witnessed. No. I don’t believe it.

Our beINSPORTS studio was split. I wasn’t moving from my position. For me it was a ‘NO NO NO’ - even if the players had said they wanted to play That was a point Andy made and I got it - but my argument was that they shouldn’t have been put in a position whereby the decision was theirs to make. Mental health has to be the overriding factor. Who cares about the game? End it. Give the teams a point a piece. ‘Ah, but the regulations don’t allow for that’. Bollocks. Change them. Extra-ordinary events require a flexibility and touch when decisions follow.

Ruud Gullit sat with his hands on his head staring at the ceiling. He didn’t move for a good half hour. He didn’t say a word. Gianfranco Zola couldn’t talk. Andy and I were doing what we could - but when I looked at him I knew what he was thinking ‘are we really watching this?’ It was an impossible watch - but we had to stay with it. We had to be part of what was happening and let the events unfold in real time. It was unpleasant work - but it wasn’t about ‘us’. It was about accurately reflecting what we were seeing. It was football’s 9/11.

So we were transfixed. Shocked. We were all thinking about Fabrice Muamba - a lovely man who Andy and I have had the pleasure of spending time with. We were watching him tweet. We knew what he was going through. For him - there couldn’t have been anything more painful. And what were UEFA doing? They were threatening the Danes. Play it - or lose it.

Even going back the next day was unthinkable. The team hotel was 45 mins away. Can you imagine the scenes in the team coach if they’d left for the hotel? Or the night they would’ve had - haunted by what they’d seen? Or the preparation the next day?

We witnessed 50 minutes of football that I didn’t want to watch. That none of us wanted to watch - but UEFA felt we had to - presumably for the ‘Integrity of the competition’. What nonsense.

No wonder the Danes are receiving special counselling. Some of those boys will never be the same again. You can’t ‘unsee’ things. Look at Daley Blind’s reaction 24 hours later. He wasn’t there. But he’s had his own health issues and he knew better than most what it must’ve been like for the Danes.

No. The time for macho, old fashioned masculine attitudes to the sort of distress we all witnessed, should be long gone. UEFA got this one horribly horribly wrong.

Happily Eriksen is on the mend. The pictures of him in his bed with his thumb up are the best images from the tournament so far. It’s why UEFA will get away with their crass decision - and I know they’re moving to shut people down. But we shouldn’t allow them to do that - if only because we need to be sure they won’t ever make the same mistakes again.

Incidentally, Peter Schmeichel will be part of our Euro 2020 coverage on beINSPORTS when we get to the ko stages. I’m looking forward to spending time with him. In the meantime - best wishes to Christian Eriksen, his family, those guys that were closest to it all - and the Danish people. And not least - to those that performed a miracle. We all witnessed one the other night - except UEFA it seems.