French national soccer team to play England in act of defiance
LONDON (AP) – The Wembley Arch will be illuminated in the red, white and blue of the French flag. The French motto, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” will be projected onto the front of the stadium. The words of “La Marseillaise,” France’s national anthem, will be shown on giant screens so that England fans can sing along with their French counterparts.
A match between the England and France soccer teams on Tuesday — a game that what supposed to serve as a valuable warm-up ahead of next year’s European Championship — has been transformed into a poignant act of defiance, solidarity and sporting unity.
Three days after being caught up in the synchronized attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, France’s players have traveled to London for the game at England’s national stadium, where there will be a beefed-up security presence and increased checks outside the ground.
For the French Football Federation, the show must go on.
“France is standing,” FFF president Noel Le Graet said. “Football also.”
England’s Football Association left the decision over whether the game should go ahead entirely in the hands of French soccer officials.
“The match will be a serious occasion,” England coach Roy Hodgson said, “but one that shows that the football world is united against those atrocities.”
On Friday, suicide bombers attacked the Stade de France in Paris, where France was playing Germany in an international friendly. The teams spent the night in the stadium as violence struck elsewhere in the French capital, during which time France midfielder Lassana Diarra’s cousin was killed and Frace forward Antoine Griezmann’s sister escaped from a concert hall where 89 people died.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Diarra and Griezmann were among the 23-man squad that flew to London on Monday morning and was set to train at a facility belonging to Premier League club Tottenham. The French team planned to be at Wembley Stadium later to train and hold a news conference.
France coach Didier Deschamps offered players the chance to withdraw from the game, but none have.
Beating England at Wembley would mark an impressive double for the French, who defeated the world champion Germans 2-0 on Friday. The result will be of little importance, though.