France players expect emotional evening on return to Stade de France

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

PARIS (AP) France’s players expect an emotional evening when they return to the Stade de France for the first time since the Nov. 13 bombings at the national stadium.

France continues its warm-up for the European Championship against Russia on Tuesday, less than five months after 130 people were killed on a night of attacks in Paris. Suicide bombers blew themselves up that evening outside the stadium during France’s friendly against Germany, killing one bystander.

“We are human beings before being sportsmen,” Arsenal and France striker Olivier Giroud said after Friday’s 3-2 win in Amsterdam against The Netherlands. “It will obviously affect us to go there.”

The friendly match against Russia will be the first soccer game at the Stade de France since the attacks. France has played three Six Nations rugby matches there without incidents amid strengthened security.

Security measures in place on Tuesday night will include increased checks on public transportation and around the stadium.

A first safety perimeter will be set up away from the gates with ticket checks and body searches. Fans will face more security measures once at the turnstiles.

With France and the rest of Europe on high alert following the Brussels attacks on Tuesday that left 31 dead, the game will also serve as a dress rehearsal for security services ahead of the month-long Euro 2016, starting June 10. About 2.5 million fans are expected to attend matches in 10 host cities, giving authorities a major security challenge.

Despite the high level of threat, France defender Christophe Jallet said he would not be discouraging his friends from going to the Stade de France.

“Life should go back to normal,” Jallet was quoted as saying by L’Equipe newspaper website.

“Everything is being done to guarantee security,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “The Paris and Brussels tragedies are a reminder of the current environment, but we need to move forward.”