Stade de France attack victim’s daughter hopes for tribute

Paris (AFP) – The daughter of Manuel Dias, who was killed by a suicide bomb blast outside the Stade de France on November 13, is hoping her father’s memory will be honoured at Sunday’s Euro 2016 final.

The encounter between hosts France and Portugal is particularly poignant for the Dias family, with Manuel Dias born in Portugal before later emigrating to France as a teenager.

“It’s very touching. We’re certainly thinking about him, of Portuguese origin but French in spirit, who loved football and was very often at the Stade de France as part of his work,” Sophie Dias, 34, told AFP.

Manuel Dias, 63, was sitting outside the Stade de France enjoying a drink at a nearby restaurant when a suicide bomber blew himself up just a few metres away from the semi-retired chauffeur.

He was the lone victim as three explosions shook the national stadium on a night when 130 people were killed as Paris was hit by a wave of coordinated terror attacks.

“He was a Sporting Lisbon fan, he was a football fan like few others I know,” said Sophie Dias.

“When I visited him in Reims on weekends the television was always on, he watched all the matches he could. When he was working he listened to them on the radio. And on his phone he had all the football apps imaginable.”

Her younger brother, Michael, 31, paid a moving tribute to their father in a column published in the Huffington Post on Saturday.

“Sunday in Saint-Denis your two countries will face each other just a few metres from Gate D where you lost your life,” he wrote.

“If I am still unable to go there, however, I take comfort in telling myself that you at least will have a special place to see the match.”

Sophie Dias said she and her brother had been invited to attend the game by France’s sports minister, but conceded the painful memories were “still too fresh”. 

However, she added that her family would have liked to have seen respects paid to their father during the opening match of the tournament, as was the case ahead of France’s second game against Albania after a police commander and his partner were killed at their home in Magnanville. 

Sophie Dias recalled that two weeks after her father’s death, “the two biggest clubs in Portugal, Sporting Lisbon and Benfica” celebrated the memory of Manuel Dias, whose picture was projected onto the big screen at the start of the match.

The Dias siblings also spoke of their wish to see a plaque put up next to Gate D to commemorate their late father, “for us not to forget him and so we can reflect”.

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