Cameron joins fans for French anthem rendition
LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron will join football fans singing the French national anthem as they pay tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks prior to England-France friendly. The words to ‘La Marseillaise’ will be shown on the big screens inside London’s Wembley Stadium as supporters unite in solidarity after Friday’s attacks, which left 129 people dead and over 350 injured. Cameron had not been scheduled to attend the game, but a source said that he had changed his mind in light of the horror that struck the French capital while France played a friendly game against Germany. Asked if the British leader would join England fans in singing the anthem, his spokesman said: “The prime minister will take part in any tributes.” France’s players, including Lassana Diarra, who lost a cousin in the attacks, were escorted by armed police as they took a walk around Wembley beneath grey skies on the afternoon of the game. The players had trained inside the stadium on Monday evening, when armed police were again in attendance.
English fans awoke to find the words to ‘La Marseillaise’ plastered across their newspapers, with tabloids The Sun and The Daily Mirror-normally bastions of footballing patriotism-printing them on their back pages. The Sun instructed readers to “sing for France”, while inside, France’s record goal-scorer Thierry Henry said: “Tonight at Wembley, the whole world will be French.”
Suicide bombers targeted Paris’s Stade de France during France’s 2-0 victory over Germany on Friday, leaving four people dead including three attackers. Diarra’s cousin, Asta Diakite, died in a shooting on Paris’s rue Bichat, while the sister of Diarra’s France teammate Antoine Griezmann escaped unhurt from the assault on the Bataclan concert hall. France and England’s football associations decided that Tuesday’s game should go ahead, prompting an unprecedented security operation involving armed police patrols and “extensive searches”.
Fans have been encouraged to arrive early and not to bring bags with them. There will be no tickets on sale at the stadium. Football Association president Prince William, who initially had no plans to go to the game, will now attend to show “solidarity to the people of France”.
FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan also revealed that he will attend. “I am continuing with my plans to attend the match, which were set some weeks ago, and to show solidarity with the people of France and the victims of terror everywhere,” he said in a statement.
Wembley’s bars will shut five minutes before kick-off to encourage fans to observe tributes including a minute’s silence, the laying of flowers by team captains Wayne Rooney and Hugo Lloris and the singing of ‘La Marseillaise’. Breaking with convention, the French anthem will be played after ‘God Save the Queen’ in order to create a stand-alone moment of solidarity. England’s fans sitting in the ground’s east stand will be provided with materials to form a mosaic of the Tricolore during the French anthem. Players from both teams will wear black armbands. The minute’s silence before Ireland’s Euro 2016 play-off win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Dublin on Monday was marred by shouts from some visiting fans, but England manager Roy Hodgson does not expect a repeat at Wembley. “We hope the ceremonies will be respected,” he said. “If there’s one thing that I truly wish for, it is that we show the respect I’d expect every single Englishman to show.”
The FA has confirmed that the giant arch over Wembley will continue to be lit in the red, white and blue of the French Tricolore leading up to the match. France’s motto’Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’-is being shown on screens outside the ground.
An online petition calling for the proceeds from the game to be donated to the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) had garnered more than 145,000 signatures by today. — AFP