England and France, on Tuesday, paid tribute to the 129 people killed in Friday’s attacks in Paris at an international friendly at Wembley.
A moving rendition of the French national anthem reverberated around London’s Wembley Stadium as fans of England and France paid tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks
In a crowd of around 72,000 that included British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William, many stood to sing ‘La Marseillaise’, four days after the attacks.
The words to the anthem were displayed on the stadium’s big screen as the music was played by an on-pitch band, while England fans in the east stand held aloft cards that created a vast mosaic of the French blue, white and red ‘Tricolor’.
Then there was a moment of silence as impeccably observed as any in Wembley’s history. There followed the laying of flowers on the touchline by dignitaries from both nations as well as a touching team photograph in which the two sets of players linked arms with their adversaries.
Many England fans had brought French flags to the stadium. One banner in the crowd, picking up a social media hashtag, read: “Pray for Paris.”
From the minute French fans walked down Wembley Way, it was clear to them this was going to be no ordinary night of soccer. There they saw England fans waving the tricolor on their way into the stadium, while some matched St George’s cross hats with France shirts as their chosen attire.
As the game began, the France fans perched high in a corner of Wembley waving the Tricolor, but it was noticeable that so many England fans also carried that flag in a further gesture of unity.
The show of solidarity continued long into the game. Every time the visiting supporters struck up a chorus of their national anthem during the pedestrian contest, being served up on the pitch, the home contingent greeted them with applause. England fans even took to greeting each French pass with a cheer of ‘Ole’ at one stage.
When Lassana Diarra, the France midfielder who lost his cousin in the attacks on the French capital, came on as a 57th minute substitute, Wembley rose to him. The result of the game will not register, his strength and the strength of the French team will be the victory.
As the final seconds were played out, the French section of Wembley delivered one final, rousing rendition of “La Marseillaise” that drew loud applause from England’s fans.
It was a night when the symbolism stretched far beyond Wembley.
It was all about the occasion rather than the game, but that’s the way it was meant to be. From the England fans singing La Marseillaise before kick off, to the floral tributes which laid beside the pitch throughout the match, football’s response to the Paris terror attacks was a fitting one.
England won the game 2-0.