English football fans saluted France on Tuesday (17 November) by roaring out the ‘Marseillaise’ national anthem at a friendly match watched by British politicians and royalty in a show of solidarity just days after Islamic State militants struck Paris.
As armed police looked on, David Cameron, Prince William and London Mayor Boris Johnson joined 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.
England won 2-0.
In an impassioned display of support for France after the killing of 129 people in Paris, 71,000 fans applauded at the opening of the match as the two teams ignored the etiquette of standing apart to mingle into a single line, their arms draped around each other’s shoulders.
Fans observed a minute of silence for the fallen. Later, supporters from both sides waved the French tricolour, some with posters reading “Pray for Paris”.
“Seeing Wembley in blue, white and red gives me goose pimples,” said Eric Lavaud, a 55-year-old France supporter.
“We are not scared,” said Lavaud, who had draped a French flag around his neck and had been at the Stade de France on Friday (13 November) for the friendly with Germany.
Explosions at that match between France and Germany on Friday signalled the beginning of the worst attack on Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings.
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 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 players were led on to the pitch by Prince William and the two team managers who carried wreaths.
“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.
The two teams have close ties, with 13 of the French squad of 23 either currently or previously playing their club football in England.
French international Lassana Diarra, who lost a cousin during the attacks, came on as a substitute during the second half, receiving warm applause from both sets of fans as he ran on to the pitch.
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’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,” Paul Lloyd, a 52-year-old England supporter wearing a red England shirt, said before the match.
France’s captain, Hugo Lloris, thanked England’s fans for their support. He said his side had struggled to concentrate but added that it had been important to show courage.