Paris (AFP) – An emotional tribute was paid to the victims of the recent terror attacks in the United Kingdom prior to England’s friendly match with France in Paris on Tuesday evening.
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May attended the match at the Stade de France, to the north of the capital, as the hosts offered their solidarity to their visitors.
A minute’s silence was impeccably observed by the crowd of almost 80,000 prior to kick-off, after French spectators joined in with the singing of the English anthem “God Save the Queen”, the words of which were put up on big screens around the ground.
The teams had come out to “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, the song by Manchester band Oasis which was played by the band and choir of the French Republican Guard, ably backed up by around 2,500 travelling English fans in one corner of the ground.
That song was seen as an anthem for Manchester after the English city was hit by a suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande concert last month which claimed 22 lives.
Another eight people, including three French nationals, were also murdered in a terror attack in London on June 3.
An English flag was displayed by a section of the Stade de France crowd as the teams entered the field on a balmy evening.
The match kicked off around five minutes later than the scheduled 9pm (1900 GMT) start, after Macron and May had arrived at the stadium in the nick of time.
They had met at the President’s Elysee Palace a little earlier to discuss business ahead of the start of Brexit negotiations next week.
Security was very tight around France’s national stadium, as it has been for all events since a wave of terror attacks began to hit the country over the last couple of years.
The game was the first meeting of the sides since November 2015, when England won 2-0 in a friendly on an emotionally charged night at Wembley.
That match was played despite France being in a state of shock in the wake of the terror attacks that struck Paris just four days earlier.
A total of 130 people were killed on November 13, 2015, when the Stade de France itself was one of the targets, being attacked by suicide bombers during a friendly match against Germany.
On that occasion, the London crowd joined in with the singing of the French anthem, “La Marseillaise”, which was also played before English Premier League games the following weekend.