Christian Eriksen made his first appearance in a game since suffering a cardiac arrest 259 days ago.
Eriksen came on in the 52nd minute in Brentford’s 2-0 loss to Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday.
He received a hero’s welcome from all four corners of the Brentford Community Stadium as he stepped onto the pitch for the first time in eight months.
“If you take away the result, I’m one happy man. To go through what I’ve been through, being back is a wonderful feeling,” Eriksen said afterward.
“You can never predict the game. I don’t think anyone predicted we’d be down to 10 men so early. The guys did what they could. It was a good fight in the end.
“It’s been very special since day one.”
The former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder signed with Brentford until the end of the current season, having not played since he collapsed during Denmark’s game against Finland in Copenhagen last year.
The 29-year-old received life-saving treatment on the pitch and was subsequently fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) device – a type of pacemaker intended to prevent fatal cardiac arrests by discharging a jolt to restore regular heart rhythm.
Serie A club Inter Milan – whom Eriksen had been contracted to at the time of the incident – announced in December that he would be allowed to move abroad in order to continue his football career, with the midfielder unable to play in Italy unless the ICD device was removed.
At the end of the year he was training with former club Odense Boldklub in Denmark, with Eriksen asserting in January that his heart was “not an obstacle” to his ambitions of a return to football and to play in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
And he finally made his first appearance on a pitch on Saturday, coming on as a second half substitute with his side already 2-0 down.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank “didn’t say much” when I came on, Eriksen said. “I’ve been speaking to him every day for the last few weeks. He just said good luck and enjoy the game.”
The Danish international showed a few of his trademark elegant touches, but, given he’s been away for almost nine months, understandably looked slightly rusty.
Eriksen couldn’t stop Brentford losing to Newcastle however, a result which means the London team sits just three points above the relegation zone with 11 matches to play.
“I think for everyone in football, it was a big moment,” Frank said. “He got a big reception, from the Newcastle fans and all our fans, and it was big for Christian and his family. It was nice to see and hopefully now he can talk with his feet and speak only about football.
“I’ve been privileged to see him in training over the last three weeks, and you saw some glimpses of brilliance here, the balls in behind, some of the passing.
“I’m convinced 100% he will help us going forward. He’s a top, top player and he’s going to add a lot of value to our team.”