There they stood. Stoic. Heroic.
As their mate endured the most horrific moment of his young life, Denmark’s players – captain Simon Kjaer, who had secured Christian Eriksen’s neck and administered the first dose of CPR, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel who has witnessed his fair share of horrors already, and the rest of these brilliant young men – decided that no, we weren’t going to see this.
We weren’t going to see a footballer rightly lauded as one of the very best players of his generation in this way. We had no right to. Not this. Not their mate.
Both Kjaer and Schmeichel were soon to be seen consoling Eriksen’s distraught wife Sabrina too, as the father of her children sparked fears that were felt around the world. No. Not this. Surely not?
That medics do what they do anyway is a miracle we take for granted on a daily basis, but when they are doing it for someone we admire then that reverence becomes all the more apparent. It shouldn’t do, but here we are.
In the hours and weeks to come there will be stories of the doctors and health professionals who intervened and prevented what would have been one of football’s – one of life’s – most heartbreaking tragedies, but until then we have that wall of Denmark players. A ring of steel. A Danish brotherhood.
There’s Andreas Christensen, a Chelsea Champions League winner who was brilliant in that final against Manchester City two weeks ago, the pinnacle of his career. Where can he go from here?
Thomas Delaney, the experienced midfielder with 54 caps and a potential transfer to the Premier League in the pipeline. A new challenge to look forward to.
The 22-year-old forward Jonas Wind, making just his eighth Denmark appearance having scored three in the previous seven. What would become of him if he could be his nation’s hero today?
The future. The enticing, exciting future.
But all they could do in that moment was live in the present as the tears flowed. Then that horrible screen went up and we all got that horrendous feeling in our gut.
Denmark’s players were there for Eriksen when he needed it, and they were there for us too.
Kjaer’s initial actions might well have saved his teammate’s life, and everything he and his players did was exemplary.
Think of them when you search for football’s lost soul amid the tide of money-driven unpleasantness, ownership vultures and European Super Leagues.
At the base, most stripped-back level football is still just this.
It is playing with your mates and being there for your mates, even at their darkest hour.
Whatever happens over the next month, Kjaer, Schmeichel and the Danish players are the heroes of this competition.
They showed a level of humanity and brotherhood that we can all learn from.