Arsene Wenger has spoken for the first time about the terrorist attacks in Paris last week and the Arsenal manager revealed he was not far away when they occurred.
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Wenger, 66, spoke strongly about the situation ahead of Arsenal’s trip to West Brom this Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) with the Gunners joint-top of the Premier League.
There’s wasn’t much talk about that game or specifically about soccer from the Frenchman as he was asked about his feelings on the attacks.
“It was a shock, a huge shock for our country. I think the football world has responded how you would want it to respond with a big togetherness. I was not far from the event. I think everybody in Paris on Friday night was under shock. The whole city was shocked and I think France like England is a tolerant and generous country and to discover how much your own citizens hate you and the country of course, it is a shock for the whole country as you wonder what is going on there.
“You wonder why they have got this kind of treatment. I believe at the moment nobody in France has found a answer or a real explanation or why because what was targeted is a way of life – going to watch the football, going out, listening to music – and it is more of a way of life that has been targeted more than any type of community.”
Wenger admits that he worries for the future of his home nation and the threat of more terror attacks.
“Yes of course. I’m worried that it could divide society and create some tensions in some parts of the country,” Wenger said. “That could be damaging for the multicultural society. You also wonder what can change inside the country and you have to trust politicians to make the right decisions to counter-attack against that.”
The Frenchman also revealed just how close he was to being wrapped up in the events.
Wenger was in Paris last Friday and at the last minute he decided to not attend the France vs. Germany friendly match at the Stade de France, outside of which three suicide bombers blew themselves up. He also spoke about the the security fears surrounding games.
“I was more under shock than fearful because you could be scared about what is going on as there were four different places that could have been attacked,” Wenger said. “In the center of Paris you did not feel secure anywhere. I was late [for an] appointment and was late going to the stadium so I decided to stay and watch the game inside the hotel where I was. In the end in the hotel we were quite secure but the streets were completely empty… You have a bit more of a question of security because it looks like it’s not the end of it in France especially. A way for us [to overcome it] is just to get on with life and respond in a positive way to the situation. You cannot stop everything, we have to continue with our lives and try to get people to focus on something else.”
The incidents didn’t dissuade Wenger from attending matches as a fan as he was present for England’s moving and poignant 2-0 friendly win over France on Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.
“I would like to thank the English community and English football who have shown great solidarity,” Wenger said. “I think it was fantastic for France and it showed the class of England. To see the arch of Wembley in the French colours was something that had a strong significance for French people. England handled this situation with a lot of class.”