I’ve only really been watching soccer for a few years now. At least at the club level. I’ve been watching international football ever since my beloved Azzurri won the 2006 World Cup, but when it came to club football, I simply didn’t develop an interest in the game until I was in my 20s, despite the fact that I’ve spent my entire life actually playing the game: from the time I was about six-years-old all the way through intramurals in college and beer leagues as a post-grad.
The final hurdle deterring me from well and truly becoming a Premier League fan was finding a team — it just didn’t feel right to blindly pick one out of a hat, as you’re effectively choosing the type of fandom experience you’ll have. Someone who roots for Burnley won’t be having the same experiences as someone who roots for Manchester City, for example. Luckily for me, my Dad started a job for a company based in Liverpool back in 2016 and the Reds became mine. As a result, these last few years of supporting Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have been some of the best sports-watching years of my life.
Once I was able to commit to Premier League fandom, I further familiarized myself not just with Liverpool, but with all of the Premier League clubs. You see, once you enjoy watching your team, you’ll enjoy watching the others: after all, they don’t call it the beautiful game for nothin’. And as a result of my newfound passion for football, and as a content creator by trade, I found myself doing some social media work for one of the state’s top Premier League podcasts, Across the Pond.
Of all the things I enjoy most about social media work, perhaps the most rewarding is not only being able to effectively crack jokes and make memes for a living but watching those jokes take a foothold in the online conversation. It’s having a GIF go viral. It’s watching a stream of users follow your account because they appreciate your vision of the game. It’s dolling out nicknames to players that somehow stick. For example, Mo Salah is known as the Egyptian King, and I can promise you he didn’t give himself that nickname — it was bequeathed to him by Liverpool fans.
Christian Eriksen is one of those nicknamed players, as every time he’d do something incredible — which was quite regularly — I’d simply tweet: “Christian Eriksen, Taker of Souls”.
Christian Eriksen, taker of souls.
— Across the Pond (@acrossthepond) April 23, 2019
Christian Eriksen, Taker of Souls.
— Across the Pond (@acrossthepond) September 1, 2019
Christian Eriksen is going to steal the soul of an entire unlucky nation this summer during the World Cup. Bank it.
— Across the Pond (@acrossthepond) March 17, 2018
I’d let Christian Eriksen be the father of my children. #CHETOT
— Across the Pond (@acrossthepond) April 1, 2018
wise move of Euron Greyjoy to align himself with House Eriksen before the Long Night pic.twitter.com/rZlkcRvBfB
— Across the Pond (@acrossthepond) December 29, 2018
I can’t explain where the name came from or when exactly it happened, I can only explain how it would came to be: Eriksen is the type of player who could do things — whether it be pinging a 50-yard ball over the top or curling in a free-kick from 30-yards out — that would simply drain the life out of the opposition. He would take their souls.
Last Saturday, as I watched in horror — as I’m sure you did — while Danish doctors desperately attempted to resuscitate Eriksen, I was reminded of this nickname and how remarkable he must be to elicit such a response from someone like myself, someone who’s halfway across the world and has no emotional connection to either him or the club he plays for. Those are images I’ll, unfortunately, never forget. I’m not sure I’ll ever shake that sinking feeling that I had just watched Christian Eriksen die. Those images of his lifeless body being desperately coaxed back into the land of the living will never leave my memory.
But Eriksen didn’t die. Thanks to the remarkable work of his teammates and EMTs and paramedics and doctors — and frankly, thanks to the grace of God — Eriksen survived. He spoke to his teammates just a few hours later and made his first public statement on Monday morning. It’s nothing short of a miracle, and when you find yourself face-to-face with a miracle, you realize just how insignificant everything else and how important life is.
So, today, whether you find yourself watching the Euros or not, remind yourself of what matters and how much it means to you. Think about where you were, where you want to go, and who you want to go therewith. Celebrate Christian’s life. Celebrate your own. Celebrate other’s lives. Celebrate all we’ve lost in this last year and all we stand to gain. Celebrate the idea of life. Celebrate the very act of it, the inherently wondrous relentlessness of it — because that’s all that matters once you realize how fragile it is. How fragile this life is.