Wembley stadium erupts with French national anthem after Paris attacks
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As armed police looked on, David Cameron, Prince William and London Mayor Boris Johnson joined thousands of England fans in an emotional rendition of the French anthem at Wembley Stadium which was lit up in the blue, white and red of the French flag.
The players were led on to the pitch by Prince William and the two team managers who carried wreaths, while supporters from both sides waved the French tricolour, some with posters reading “Pray for Paris”.
An estimated 80,000 fans then applauded wildly as the two teams stood in one line, with arms around each other, before observing a minute’s silence in a solemn mark of respect for the 129 people who were killed in the Paris attacks.
“Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ were beamed on to the side of the stadium while the words of the French national anthem were displayed on large screens for fans.
“Seeing Wembley in blue, white and red gives me goose pimples,” said Eric Lavaud, a 55-year-old France supporter who travelled from St Tropez and was with around a dozen supporters who had come from France on Monday for the match.
“We know that the English are going to be welcoming... for the first time in history,” said Lavaud, who had draped a French flag around his neck and was at the Stade de France on Friday for the friendly with Germany. “We are not scared.”
Explosions at that match between France and Germany on Friday signalled the beginning of the worst attack on Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings. French President Francois Hollande was at that match.
A French player lost his cousin in Friday’s violence and the side stayed overnight in the Stade de France with the German team as a security precaution, but the French soccer federation said it was important the game with England went ahead.
England manager Roy Hodgson said the warm welcome for the French team, who have generally had the upper hand over England in recent years, was designed to show how appalled they were with the events in Paris.
“The French team and the French Federation were very keen that the game should go ahead just to make certain that the terrorists don’t win,” he told broadcaster ITV before the match.
“We see the game as a show of solidarity and we see it also as a show of defiance.”
A friendly match between hosts Germany and Netherlands in Hanover was called off less than two hours before its start on Tuesday for fear of a bomb attack, German police said, while a tie between Belgium and Spain was postponed for security reasons.
That match had been due to take place in Brussels, where police have carried out raids in the wake of the Paris attacks.
“The killers won't win"
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was important for Britain to stand side-by-side with its neighbour, the world cup winners from 1998.
“Now, more than ever, we must come together and stand united and carry on with the way of life that we know and that we love,” he told parliament. “This match is going ahead.”
The two teams have close ties, with 13 of the French squad of 23 either currently or previously playing their club football in England.
Police had urged supporters to arrive early due to additional security searches while there were armed officers patrolling the stadium.
Common in European countries like France, armed police are generally rarely seen in Britain although they did patrol the London Olympic Games in 2012 and have taken on more of a high profile in recent years due to fears of attacks.
“We’ll sing along and it’s going to be one of those evenings that will be very poignant,” Paul Lloyd, a 52-year-old England supporter wearing a red England shirt, said before the match.
“I just think that we’ve all got to come together against terrorism and they’re not going to stop us living our lives and being who we are. They won’t win.”
Ahead of the Wembley match during which players wore black armbands, French coach Didier Deschamps said his side would play England with “even more pride”.
England were winning 2-0.