Sound of silence as French sport mourns Paris victims

PARIS (AFP) - Many stood in sombre, respectful silence, some proudly waved French flags, others dreamed up original slants on the "Je Suis Charlie" rallying calls of global defiance.

Across the football and rugby grounds of France, in the English Premier League and even thousands of metres high up in the Swiss Alps, emotional tributes continued to be paid to the 17 victims of this week's Paris massacres.

In the Top 14 rugby championship, European and French champions Toulon set the tone.

For colourful Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, it was a particularly poignant afternoon.

Comic book magnate Boudjellal had edited the early works of Stephane Charbonnier and Bernard Verlhac, two of the cartoonists slain by Islamist militants at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris.

Spectators had greeted Toulon and Castres by holding up pieces of paper with "Nous Sommes Tous Charlie" ("We Are All Charlie") printed on them.

The players lined-up wearing shirts also with the words "Nous Sommes Tous Charlie", "Je Suis Charlie" and "Je Suis Policier" (three police officers were also killed in the bloody spree).

Photos of four of the dead cartoonists then appeared on the big screen at the Stade Mayol.

"We are all beginning to realise the seriousness of what took place," said Racing-Metro's French international fullback Brice Dulin.

"It is important that we show our support."

Toulon fans also adapted their club song, Pilou-Pilou for the occasion with the final line of "Because Toulon" amended to "Because Charlie".

However, not all sports arenas in France were in the mood for respectful contemplation.

At Bastia's Stade Furiani in Corsica, where the home team was playing Paris Saint Germain, the minute's silence was perfectly observed.

But some fans then unfurled a banner bearing the words "Qatar finances PSG and terrorism" in a crude reference to the Paris club which is financed by the Gulf state.

French international footballer Bafetimbi Gomis had a hand in Swansea's goal in the 1-1 English Premier League draw against West Ham and marked his assist by running down the pitch waving a French flag.

The 29-year-old previously played in France with Saint-Etienne, Troyes and Lyon.

"I thought that was a really nice touch," said Swansea coach Garry Monk.

"He is very passionate about his country and where he is from and that showed in his celebration and why he got the flag."

In Italy, Roma's French coach Rudi Garcia handed out crayons to journalists at a press conference so they could pen tributes to the fallen.

"I am French and I am in mourning... just like the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, we also seek to entertain. That's why I feel as if I am one of them."

At a World Cup giant slalom skiing event at the Swiss resort of Adelboden, Frenchman Alexis Pinturault finished third before turning his attentions to the dead in Paris.

The 23-year-old Olympic bronze medallist held up a banner on the podium with the words "Je ski Charlie" ("I ski Charlie").

"For me it was important to show solidarity with the events which happened in France. Maybe one day it will happen here in Switzerland, for one never knows when these attacks can happen and it is good to show solidarity," he said.

In Spain, there was also a minute's silence observed at all top-flight football games including a packed-out Bernabeu, the home of Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid.

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