Just four days after 129 people were killed in the shocking terrorist attacks in Paris the French national team will step out onto the pitch at Wembley Stadium and play against England to try and help a nation in mourning.
After the terrible incidents of last Friday, which included suicide bombers trying to gain access to the Stade de France where France were playing Germany in a friendly, there was severe doubt over whether or not the friendly game between France and England would take place in London on Tuesday.
In a show of defiance the President of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, confirmed the team would play the game.
On Monday, the third official day of mourning in France, manager Didier Deschamps spoke to the media for the first time since the attacks as he and his team were at Wembley for a training session.
“It’s difficult to respond, we are here as a staff and management and players, it’s hard to make a comment when there have been such atrocities,” Deschamps said. “As a group we are thinking of the victims and their families and friends, but to be honest I don’t want to talk too much on subjects not about the sport. We are representing our country in a particularly poignant moment. I am really grateful for the messages of solidarity and support all over the world, but especially from the English because we are to play the match [there]. The match will be full of emotion but we have a duty to perform and give a good account of ourselves and represent our country in the right way.”
Speaking about the events on Friday night in and around the Stade de France during the win against Germany, where explosions shook the stadium and were clearly audible to those present and watching on TVs around the world, Deschamps revealed that it didn’t become clear for quite some time what was happening. He also talked about how the decision was made for the French team to stay inside the stadium with the German team until early the next morning when they could be taken safely to the airport.
“It is the very first time a stadium, football players and supporters have been a target for a terrorist attack,” Deschamps said. “But sport has a way of uniting people, sport is the very representation of economic and social life; everyday life. I have always said that it is a huge source of pride for me to represent my country in sport and that has become even more important now. Sport represents a union of diversity and diversity coming together. Lassana Diarra’s message put it well; sport has no colour, sport has no religion.”
“We were focused on the game and heard the noises. But you are so focused, you aren’t aware of what it is. It was not until after, when it came to light the terrible events both in and around the stadium and in certain areas of Paris, what had happened,” Deschamps said. “When it became clear that Germany wanted to remain in the stadium, independent of what we were recommended by the security services, I approached Joachim Low and we said we would remain with them until the right solution was arrived at. We did not get back to Clairefontaine until the late hours. It was difficult to eat or sleep.”
For the game armed police will be in and around Wembley Stadium with the Metropolitan Police stepping up their presence at the home of soccer, while Prince William, the head of the English Football Association, will be in attendance as England will show its solidarity with its neighbors from across the channel. The famous arch at Wembley will be lit up in red, white and blue to represent the French flag, while fans inside the stadium will hold up a mosaic of the tricolore and the words to the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, will be put up on the big screens so England’s fans can join in.
France’s goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris spoke about what the last few days have been like for the players at their training base in Clairefontaine.
“We have been together and talked together as a group, it has been dramatic few days and very hard,” Lloris said. “We have been trying to keep focused and while at Clairefontaine trying to keep up with the news. We are now trying to focus our minds on doing the job on the field; to play for our country and play for the victims… Tomorrow will be a great moment of solidarity. The last three days have been dramatic and I think we were in mourning together. We spent time in Clairefontaine together and I think the president made the best decision to play this game. It will be an opportunity to show character through that game and allow us to share this moment with all the English people.”
Lloris, who plays his club soccer in London with Tottenham Hotspur, also made a point of thanking people around the globe for their messages of support following the atrocities but in particular the English authorities, media and fans.
“We’ve shared all our feelings and emotions amongst ourselves. It is a case of each individual to express themselves on the field and concentrate on the game from now on. There will be a lot of emotion from the players but we are in London and people here are respectful. It will be a great moment of solidarity. We have been touched by messages from all over the globe, particularly in England,” Lloris said. “I know the English very well from my time with Tottenham and I know they will help us to commemorate and do the right thing and support us before the game and we are very grateful for the messages. It’s important for us that for a group of players who will sing together and share that moment. It will be amazing if the England fans can sing the Marseillaise, and share in this moment.”
Deschamps remained defiant and issued the following message.
“We are here now to take to the field to represent our country. With even more pride than we normally would and make sure the blue, white and red are proudly represented by the players on the field,” Deschamps added.