Days after the Paris terror attacks, two footballing nations came together in an international friendly at Wembley in a spirit of solidarity and defiance as England hosted France.
Two of the French players, midfielder Lassana Diarra and striker Antoine Griezmann, had family members caught up in the dreadful events on November 13. Diarra lost his cousin, while Griezmann’s sister managed to escape from the Bataclan Theatre.
“Tonight is not about football, we are all here to show we are not afraid”
Both stayed with the squad for the England match and tweeted: “In this climate of terror, it is important for all of us who represent our country and its diversity to stay united against a horror which has no colour, no religion.”
The match went ahead amidst a massive security operation to guarantee the safety of everyone attending, but the climate of fear generated by the attacks and other terror alerts across Europe failed to put fans off from flocking to the national stadium.
As one England told me: “There was no was I was staying at home.
“If I didn’t turn up tonight I may as well not go to work tomorrow, I may as well not go to another football match ever again, may as well stay indoors for the rest of my life. I think we will see loads of fans here tonight. We can’t let the terrorists think we’re scared.”
‘The right decision’
You could feel the tension as fans gathered before the game; everyone seemed on edge but there the two sets of fans spoke as one.
A French fan who had travelled from Lyon said: “Tonight is not about football, we are all here to show we are not afraid.”
“My biggest memory of the night will be seeing two nations standing shoulder to shoulder following the awful events in Paris”
Another English supporter from Manchester echoed the thoughts of many when he said: “Football’s my passion. Obviously I was a bit indecisive about coming tonight but I think it was the right decision.
“My wife didn’t want me to come, she will be worrying until I get home tonight, but I couldn’t miss this. It’s my first England match and this was a birthday present, I hope nothing kicks off tonight and we get the win.”
As the game drew closer to kick off, both sets of supporters started to bellow out their national anthems. When the players made their way on to the pitch, a huge mosaic of the French flag was created by England supporters in one section of seating.
The minute’s silence and the singing of the anthems really did pull the heartstrings of thousands around the ground. Both sets of fans stood in unity and sang the French national anthem La Marseillaise together.
The game itself ended as a 2-0 win for England but the result didn’t matter. My biggest memory of the night will be seeing two nations standing shoulder to shoulder following the awful events in Paris.