| 4 July, 2021 | 4 Min Read

Understanding excellent leadership from Denmark's captain

During Euro 2021, an unexpected tragedy left the whole world in shock when Christian Eriksen collapsed due to cardiac arrest. In that challenging time, Denmark's captain, Simon Kjaer, displayed courageous leadership to save his teammate's life while also offering support and strength to the rest of the team.

When Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch in a match between Denmark and Finland, the whole world had their hearts in their mouths, terrified for what they had just witnessed. But while the world watched in shock, Simon Kjaer displayed brave leadership as he took the initiative by rushing from his half of the pitch to roll Eriksen to his side, stabilize his head, and open his mouth to prevent him from choking on his tongue.

The Denmark captain is now widely regarded as a hero for his brave, compassionate and immediate response to the crisis, but that wasn't all he did.

Quick thinking & effective response 

Simon Kjaer's quick response proved to be crucial in saving the life of his friend and teammate, Christian Eriksen, who received CPR treatment from the medical team afterwards.

When the doctors arrived on the pitch to take over, Kjaer organized his teammates, many of whom were already in tears. Together, they formed a semi-circle around Eriksen and the doctors attending to him in a bid to shield him from the public and television cameras. A stand of solidarity in the face of an unexpected tragedy. 

Grove HR - Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch

The protecting circle of teammates around Christian Eriksen - Source: The New York Times


Composure in the face of crisis 

His composure and leadership were some of the key attributes that made Kjaer a hero.

As Christian Eriksen's wife rushed onto the pitch, fearing the worst, Simon Kjaer and the Denmark goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, approached her and offered comfort and reassurance.

Denmark's manager, Kasper Hjulmand praised his players for how they handled the situation, “Our players acted outstandingly,” And he credited Simon Kjaer for his vital contributions. “To see Simon being so far from Christian at first yet still being the second player by his side, helping him, then turning his attention on to Sabrina along with Kasper. … He had the capacity to get everyone pulling together, communicate and be a leader. Simon was the role model as he always is.”

After it was confirmed that Eriksen was alright in the hospital, the players agreed to continue the match. Though they lost the match 1-0 to Finland, their spirit wasn't quenched.

Ahead of their second match, Simon Kjaer said:

“I am touched and very grateful for all the support. Today, we will enter the pitch against Belgium with Christian in our hearts and thoughts. It gives us peace in our minds, which allows us to focus on the game of football. We will play for Christian and as always for all of Denmark. That is the greatest motivation for us all.”


Simon Kjaer had a remarkable performance during that match. Though they lost, they knew that they had it all to play for in the final group match.

"We go into the game with the mentality that we have to get there (to the knockout stage), and after everything we've been through I think we deserve it," Kjær said. "You can be sure that everything will be left out on the pitch tomorrow — with the support and the quality that this team has, I'm confident about the match."

Denmark went on to qualify from the group in an emotional turnaround. Then, they comfortably rounded out Wales in the Round Of 16 fixture to be eligible for the Quarterfinals. 

What can we learn from Simon Kjaer's leadership?

If anything, watching how Simon Kjaer reacted and handled the situation has left us inspired and motivated to be as good a leader as he was. Here are 3 things we learnt from him. 

Quick thinking & effective response 

As a leader, you will be faced with unplanned situations, so it is important not to panic. Do take the initiative by leading your team and being proactive to manage whatever crisis you're facing.

Composure in the face of crisis 

A good leader sets the standard for others to follow. Imagine if Simon Kjaer had lost it like everyone else, Christian Eriksen wouldn't have received the first aid that was vital to saving his life. By being composed in the face of crisis, Simon was able to not just save Eriksen's life but also give strength to his teammates and hope to the world at large. 

Compassion & understanding 

Two essential qualities of a good leader are compassion and understanding. Being able to connect with those around you, understanding what they're going through and offering them the proper support makes a good leader. Simon displayed this when he comforted Eriksen's wife and organized his teammates to stand in solidarity to shield Eriksen from the public eye. 

Thankfully, with Christian Eriksen now stable and recovering well from his cardiac arrest, Simon Kjaer led his country to a remarkable Euro Semi-final spot after 29 years.

It remains to be seen if they have what it takes to go all the way and win the tournament, but one thing we know for sure is that they already won the heart of their fans.

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