Scottish Daily Mail

Paris is al­ways in our hearts

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WHO doesn’t love Paris, that burgh of un­ri­valled va­ri­ety, beauty and life? The won­drous food, the spec­tac­u­lar ar­chi­tec­ture, the stun­ning pub­lic spa­ces, the ro­man­tic history, cul­ture aplenty to suit all tastes… and, for many of us, the sport.

From favourite venue for a Six Na­tions week­end to its star­ring role in two of Scot­tish foot­ball’s most mem­o­rable mo­ments, the open­ing match of the 1998 World Cup and that night in the au­tumn of 2007 — when roughly two mil­lion of us ap­peared to have been squeezed into the Parc des Princes to see Faddy score his stun­ner — the City of Light has al­ways been close to our hearts.

Right now, we are hold­ing it closer still, send­ing our prayers and love to a peo­ple in the deep­est state of mourn­ing. And, of course, promis­ing to stand shoul­der to shoul­der with them at this time of ter­ri­ble grief.

If the com­fort we might of­fer is scant, the least to be said is that sport­ing oc­ca­sions will be­come a nat­u­ral and ob­vi­ous fo­cal point for gen­uine ex­pres­sions of heart­felt sol­i­dar­ity in the com­ing days.

There have al­ready been ban­ners, French flags, sym­pa­thetic words aplenty at the events which still took place on Satur­day. There will be more.

If you haven’t al­ready done so, you will all un­doubt­edly ob­serve a minute’s si­lence the next time we gather to enjoy watch­ing grown men and women play chil­dren’s games.

And, at some point this sea­son, Glas­gow War­riors will re­turn to Paris to face Rac­ing 92 in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup, ful­fill­ing the fix­ture rightly post­poned from its sched­uled kick-off on Satur­day.

When that match is played, there will be a lot of talk about Scot­tish supporters de­fi­antly trav­el­ling to sup­port the boys. Be­cause stay­ing away would rep­re­sent a sur­ren­der to the forces of evil.

It’s easy enough to say such things, to prom­ise that noth­ing will keep us away from any ma­jor sport­ing event — in­clud­ing Euro 2016, likely to be pa­tro­n­ised by plenty of Scots de­spite our na­tional team’s ab­sence. It’s much harder to fol­low through when terror alerts ap­pear con­stantly set at the high­est level. Af­ter all, it is only a game.

As in­con­se­quen­tial as sport seems, re­mem­ber that love of a good con­test is some­thing that sets us apart from the fundamenta­lists, whose pri­or­i­ties upon tak­ing over ter­ri­tory of­ten in­clude the ban­ning of uni­ver­sally-en­joyed games.

Through­out mod­ern history, ter­ror­ists have tar­geted sport­ing events pre­cisely be­cause they know that, for all the triv­ial dif­fer­ences that di­vide ri­val fans, there is some­thing about the shared ex­pe­ri­ence — a sort of com­mu­nion of hearts and minds — that binds us closer to­gether.

If you doubt that this bond ex­ists, con­sider the now-tra­di­tional lay­ing of shirts and scarves at a sta­dium when a club loses some­one dear. Now think about the reg­u­lar­ity with which fans from ‘the enemy’ have turned up to add their own trib­ute amid the sea of home colours.

Travel to any cor­ner of the civilised world, mean­while, and six words of the lo­cal lingo will be enough to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion about sport, com­plete with hand ges­tures and ran­dom shouts of names like ‘Dal­glish’ and ‘Billy Brem­ner’.

Yes, the vast ma­jor­ity on this planet understand that, as a wise man once put it, our dif­fer­ences unite us. For those who be­lieve that the ‘wrong’ thoughts should be pun­ish­able by death, such a phi­los­o­phy must be ter­ri­fy­ing.

And so, from Mu­nich to At­lanta, from the mur­der­ous at­tack on the Sri Lankan cricket team that ef­fec­tively forced Pak­istan to play cer­tain ‘home’ games thou­sands of miles away, to the armed as­sault on the Togo na­tional foot­ball team in 2010, the killers know that they gain more than just public­ity by strik­ing at some­thing we love.

There is a rea­son why the sui­cide bomber who struck on Fri­day night made straight for the friendly match be­tween France and Ger­many. If he could get in there, if he could kill many with his ini­tial blast and — as po­lice be­lieved was his in­tent — start a mur­der­ous stam­pede, then he would have made us all think twice about go­ing to a sta­dium again.

Yet, hu­man na­ture prompts us to vow never again to com­plain about the ‘daft’ se­cu­rity mea­sures at the Stade de France (God bless them and their in­sis­tence on search­ing ev­ery nook and cranny of your bag, ev­ery sin­gle time) — and swear that the bad guys won’t be al­lowed to win. Even when it feels like they are.

As scary as the world may be some­times, and as much dis­tance may lie be­tween pub­lic bravado and pri­vate real­ism in the face of gen­uinely ter­ri­fy­ing threats, there’s some­thing re­as­sur­ing about that at­ti­tude.

Some­thing in­spir­ing about the will­ing­ness of so many to en­dure full body scans and fin­ger­tip searches, per­haps jok­ing ner­vously with the se­cu­rity staff, while qui­etly pray­ing ev­ery­one will be able to go home at the end of the game.

L’an­nee prochaine a Paris, then. Next year in Paris. Af­ter all, who in their right mind doesn’t love the place?

 ??  ?? Stand­ing strong: Scot­land fans have many fond mem­o­ries of Paris and will con­tinue to sup­port its peo­ple
Stand­ing strong: Scot­land fans have many fond mem­o­ries of Paris and will con­tinue to sup­port its peo­ple

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