The Netherlands defender Daley Blind said he seriously considered sitting out his country's opening Euro 2020 match on Sunday after former Ajax teammate Christian Eriksen suffered a heart attack on the pitch on Saturday.
Blind, 31, is no stranger to heart problems after he was diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation in December after suffering from dizziness in a Champions League clash with Valencia. He was subsequently fitted with an electronic device called the Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator before his return in February.
Blind decided to take to the field and broke down in tears after being substituted midway through the second half of the 3-2 win over Ukraine in the Group C match in Amsterdam on Sunday.
"Yesterday had a huge impact on me, never mind the fact that I know Christian well as a friend," Blind said in reference to the terrifying events in Copenhagen 24 hours earlier when Denmark midfielder Eriksen collapsed on the pitch against Finland after suffering a heart attack.
“The situation for him is terrible. Of course, I have also experienced a few things in that area, so that I had to overcome a mental hurdle to play today."
Blind suffered a scare during a friendly match in August when the pacemaker he uses to treat dangerously abnormal heart rhythms failed and he collapsed again – although it was later described as a one-off incident.
"I had to persuade myself to play but I’m proud that I did and that’s why my emotion came bursting out at the end of the game," he said.
"I definitely thought about not taking part. The images on television and the incident had a big impact and I didn't sleep very well because of them. I really had to overcome a big hurdle to do this."
The Danish football association said on Sunday that Eriksen was stable and awake in hospital and had been in contact with teammates.
Eriksen encouraged them to return to the field to complete the match against Finland, and Blind concedes that helped persuade him to turn out for Netherlands.
"If it didn't go well, it would have haunted my head even more," Blind said. "When Christian encouraged his own teammates to play is when I decided to play myself. Also because I'm safe, according to the doctors," Blind said.
Manager Frank de Boer cancelled a team meeting on the eve of the game because of the distress among the Dutch players.
"I'm sure he [Blind] had a hard time making that choice, but on the other hand, he really put his hand up," said De Boer, who coached Eriksen at Ajax earlier in the midfielder's career. "That burst of feelings that hit him at the end was very normal."
"I worked for five years with Christian and there are players in my team who still play with him or had a good bond with him when he played for Ajax.
"It was a roller-coaster night last night. We had planned to have a tactical meeting but we had to reschedule it for this morning because I didn't want to speak about football."