Denmark meets Finland at home
after 41 minutes Christian Eriksen collapses
I turn down the volume
pick up Albert and carry him into the kitchen
touch his cheek
I need to comfort someone.
I go to the doorway and watch the television
from a distance
the match timer is removed from the screen.
Christian Eriksen is taken off the field on a stretcher
surrounded by Danish players and doctors in face masks
hidden by hospital bed sheets
reading “REGION H CENTRALVASKERI”
a Finnish flag shields his head from view.
Then there is silence
the match has stopped
some spectators leave the stadium
Others are locked in embraces
The Finnish fans start chanting Christian Eriksen’s name
louder and louder
so everyone can hear it
CHRISTIAN! they call out
ERIKSEN! the Danes answer.
A desperate attempt
to reverse the logic of football:
home teams and away teams
teammates and opponents
I’m sitting on the couch with Albert on my lap
while the Finnish and Danish fans sing as loudly as they can
The match hovers in a drone over Parken Stadium
all cameras zoom out
We see all of Fælledparken
If I could unsee what I just saw
Christian Eriksen’s lifeless eyes.
I hold Albert’s hands
he has started clapping again
my mother sends me a text: What’s going on?
Football is a theatre with a clear choreography
now the play is in pieces:
The players are crying on stage
they’re standing in a circle on the pitch
you can see the numbers on their backs.
Yussuf Poulsen buries his face in his hands
Simon Kjær crouches down
and looks up at the sky.
My mother sends me a text: It’s a good thing Albert doesn’t understand.
In UEFA’s protocols three points are hanging
they need distributing
the show must go on
the players get back in their positions
Someone’s got to win
I bet 100 kroner on Denmark before the match
as Eriksen is taken to hospital
the money is transferred back into my account
when the game resumes the money is withdrawn again.
My mother sends me a text: Isn’t it weird that they keep playing?
The match between Belgium and Russia begins
after ten minutes Romelu Lukaku scores
he runs to the camera
with a message to his friend:
“Chris, Chris” he says:
“Stay strong – I love you”
Christian Eriksen is now stable, says the Danish Football Association
I put Albert to bed, singing him to sleep
I settle on the couch and write a text to my mother:
I just put Albert to sleep – I don’t know what happened tonight.
Sleep tight, Albert, she replies.
I watch Denmark-Belgium with a couple of old friends and their sons
Albert is too young to remember anything
whenever he experiences something, he forgets it rights after.
In the 10th minute Dries Mertens stops the ball
he doesn’t pass it on
All the spectators in the stadium rise up
We get up in the living room
there are rumours that Christian Eriksen
who is lying in a ward at Rigshospitalet 700 meters from Parken
has opened a window
so he can hear the applause.
the referee claps
my friends clap
their sons clap
Ivan opens the living room window
louder, he shouts
so Eriksen can hear it!
This is the last group match
Denmark must beat Russia.
Losing is not an option, that’s how it feels
and every time Denmark scores
my upstairs neighbour yells YES
ten seconds before it happens on our screen.
In the apartment opposite a whole party get up
and hug each other
three seconds before the score changes on our screen.
Staggered roars from outside
come after our celebrations in the living room
we cheer in sync with our net connections
clinging to the now we have in hand.
When I was a boy and played football in AIA-Tranbjerg
and a player on my team rushed towards the ball
to get possession
before it rolled over the sideline
I shouted: Get it!
It was clear what my teammate had to do
I knew he knew
but I had to say it out loud:
The instruction was clear:
On your toes!
Down the line!
Pass it on!
Get with it!
Stay on your feet!
Take a chance!
Denmark beats Wales
Denmark is in the quarter final
Four times I wake Albert from his light sleep
first in the 27th minute
in the 48th
and then again in the 4th minute of overtime.
I’ve hung an old Arsenal scarf up over his bed
because I don’t have a Danish flag
I have a Sunderland banner
from the time Thomas Sørensen played there
and a Benfica t-shirt from a holiday in Portugal in the mid-nineties.
Every morning I play Alphabeat’s Danish team song
and try to like it
or: I’m trying to make Albert like it
so it will grow on me through his enjoyment
But he just shakes his head
like when I try to palm him off with mashed potatoes
and he’s already eyed the sausage and ketchup
behind the computer screen
then he shakes his head and makes the no sound:
I don’t want to listen to Alphabeat and eat mashed potatoes
I want to listen to Arnie Alligator
and eat sausage and ketchup.
I watch the quarter finals with my friend and his 12-year-old son
Ivan has spent a week at football camp
he can’t sit still
He wants to grow
During half-time he starts doing squats in the living room
but it’s too easy for him
Do you have something heavy? he asks.
Something heavy? I say.
Yes, just anything heavy, he says.
a litre of milk? I ask.
No, something heavy, he says.
Just a sec, I say
and bring in the typewriter I keep under the bed
try this, I say
and he spends the rest of half-time doing squats
with a Remington Standard No. 12 in his arms.
Second half begins
Ivan has worked his way through a kilo of shelled peas
hides his face behind his hands
when the Czech players approach the penalty area
as Schick closes the gap, he says:
I’d feel a lot better if the score said 1-1.
Ah, come on, I say, we’re still leading
Sure, but 2-0 is the most dangerous lead, he says.
What about 2-1? I ask.
Even more dangerous, he says.
We fly up from the sofa howling in unison
when Mikkel Damsgaard fires the ball into the back of the net
from a free kick
we bundle together in a group hug in the middle of the living room
wow wow wow, we shout
so loudly that Albert wakes up in his cot
he sits up and claps his hands
while he cries.
I give him his dummy
tuck him back in
I want to sing a lullaby for him
but the only song I can think of is the football song Re-Sepp-ten
which we heard on repeat before the match began
I hum it all the way through three times
and he’s back to sleep.
When I played football as a boy
and found myself in an advantageous position
ready for the ball
I’d call out in a cautious, desperate, coaxing voice:
Play it, play it, play it.
When unmarked in front of the goal and the ball wasn’t played to me
because my teammate was all ego and took the shot
from an all too wide angle
I hunkered right down into the verb’s infinitive form:
You have to play.
Albert stays awake until the start of the final
with a bottle in his mouth
he sucks from it every thirty seconds
he claps sleepily, sluggishly
as Luke Shaw runs to the back post
and scores in the 2nd minute
and dozes off until the 17th
where the camera captures Spinazzola
with his leg bent over the seat in front of him
to rest his bust Achilles tendon.
In the 18th minute he is close to sleeping
when Verratti dances around Kalvin Phillips in the middle of the pitch
and takes the air out of England’s sails
before Chiesa misunderstands a pass from di Lorenzo
and the ball rolls over the sideline.
In the 19th minute he’s sleeping lightly
while the camera films Mancini in the sidelines
he has put on a raincoat over his suit
Gareth Southgate in his dugout
has buttonned up his coat to the neck
he is focused
just stands and watches.
in the 20th minute Chiellini commits a foul on Kane
and Albert is breathing deeply
a slight rattle in his breath from his cold.
In the 21st minute Jorginho places himself mid-field
he’s clutching his right knee
Mancini tells Cristante to warm up
and I carry Albert to bed
turn on the baby monitor
and back out of the bedroom
I gently pull the door to.
The rest of the match comes back to me in flashes.
Twitter videos during half-time:
Mass fights in Leicester Square
security checks being breached
police struggling to keep out the fans
young men wrapped in England flags
who storm through the Wembley turnstiles
hoping to be there
when England win their first European Championship.
My mother sends a rain of text messages:
Isn’t that a little wild?
They can’t do that.
Who are we supporting?
Is Albert awake?
Well, I’m going to bed, mum xx.
I’m sitting alone in the living room
in the 7th minute of overtime
placing bets on my phone
100 kroner against England.
The extra time blows over
and I lose myself
in the bags under Belotti’s eyes
he looks tired
he’s overthinking it
on the edge of the goal area
Pickford is pacing at the goal line
dancing from side to side
and then Belotti kicks
too far to the left
Pickford makes the save
Belotti looks down at the grass
And then Rashford, Sancho and Saka blunder
Donnarumma does not dare to cheer
as he saves the last kick
he wants to be sure there won’t be a re-take
he wants to be sure the VAR won’t interrupt things
In the end there’s no doubt: Italy are European champions
Donnarumma is the player of the tournament
Bonucci bellows into the camera
to everyone watching:
“It’s coming to Rome” he says
repeating it aggressively:
“It’s coming to Rome!”
Nielsine Nielsen and Matthew Travers
Read the original poem in Danish here.
All rights belong to the poet, the translators and Bookmate.
The poem can be be shared as long as the rightholders are credited and the poem is posted with a link back to the original publication.