Football: Wembley honours Paris victims with French anthem

The teams sang along with the crowd to honour victims of the Paris attacks.
The teams sang along with the crowd to honour victims of the Paris attacks.YOUTUBE

LONDON (AFP) - A moving rendition of the French national anthem reverberated around London's Wembley Stadium on Tuesday as fans of England and France paid tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks.

In a crowd of around 80,000 that included British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William, many stood to sing La Marseillaise four days on from the attacks, which left 129 people dead and over 350 injured.

The words to the anthem were displayed on the stadium's big screen as the music was played by an on-pitch band, while England fans in the east stand held aloft blue, white and red cards that created a vast mosaic of the French Tricolore.

France midfielder Lassana Diarra, who lost a cousin in the attacks, was present on the pitch as the anthems played, along with his team-mate Antoine Griezmann, whose sister escaped the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall that left 89 people dead.

Both players were named on the bench for the game, which England led 1-0 at half-time courtesy of a long-range strike by full debutant Dele Alli.

There was a heavy police presence outside the ground as fans arrived beforehand, while two armed counter-terror police officers were seen patrolling beside the pitch inside the stadium.

The friendly between Germany and the Netherlands scheduled to take place in Hanover on Tuesday had earlier been cancelled, with German police citing a "serious" bomb threat.

Last Friday's attacks in Paris had started with three suicide bombers blowing themselves up outside the Stade de France while France played Germany in a friendly.

But supporters arriving at Wembley were relaxed, with one Malaysian fan telling AFP: "I have no fears at all. I believe that the British will provide the security necessary."

Breaking with convention, the Marseillaise was played after God Save The Queen in order to create a stand-alone moment of solidarity.

Many England fans had brought French flags to the stadium. One banner in the crowd, picking up a social media hashtag, read: "Pray for Paris."

Prior to the anthems, and a solemnly observed minute's silence, figures including Prince William, France coach Didier Deschamps, England manager Roy Hodgson, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet and his English counterpart Greg Dyke laid floral tributes beside the pitch.

In a speech to his fellow dignitaries before the game, Dyke said: "Tonight is an opportunity for us, the English, to say to the people of Paris and to the people of France, 'We are with you, we support you - tonight we are Parisians, tonight we are French.

"'We share in your grief, we share in your shock, but also we share in your determination not to be beaten.'"

The teams emerged from the tunnel accompanied by mascots wearing both France and England kits and led by children carrying a black flag bearing the French motto 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite' (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood).

Shortly before kick-off, the teams posed for a merged team photo, during which a standing ovation broke out around the ground.

Despite the Paris attacks, claimed by Islamic State, the FA said that around 80,000 tickets had been sold for Tuesday's game - only 10,000 short of full capacity.

Fans were encouraged to arrive early and told not to bring bags with them.

The communal singing of the Marseillaise followed a social media campaign taken up by British newspapers, many of which printed the words to the 220-year-old battle hymn on the morning of the match.

France and England's football associations decided that the game should go ahead, prompting an unprecedented security operation involving armed police patrols and extensive searches.

Prince William, who has the honorary role of FA president, changed his plans to attend in order to show "solidarity to the people of France".

Fifa presidential candidate Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan was also in attendance.

Fans arriving at Wembley were greeted by the sight of the stadium's giant arch illuminated in the blue, white and red of the French flag, while 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite' was shown on screens outside the ground.