In one of the most powerful displays of solidarity and tribute to those who lost their lives in the Paris terror attacks last Friday, English fans united with their French counterparts in a stirring rendition of the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise," at London’s Wembley Stadium. The scheduled friendly international match between the two neighboring countries and long-time rivals on and off the field was always going to have significance far beyond events on the pitch following the atrocities in the French capital that led to the loss of 129 lives.
Almost immediately, the head of the French Football Federation decided that the match would go ahead. England fans responded with similar defiance, with only 100 supporters taking up the option to get a refund for their tickets, while 10,000 more were sold. As well as providing an unprecedented level of security for the event, authorities in England also followed with symbols of unity. Ahead of the match, the famous arch over England’s national stadium was lit up with the tricolor, while the French motto, "liberté, égalité, fraternité" was also displayed outside the arena.
Inside, the more than 71,000 fans, including Prince Williams and British Prime Minister David Cameron, were given the materials to hold aloft and create a giant tricolor while the anthem was played. In a break from protocol, the visiting anthem followed that of the home team’s, while the words of La Marseillaise were displayed on the big screens inside the stadium for the English fans to join in the rendition. Ahead of kickoff, a minute’s silence was then impeccably observed ahead of the match getting underway.
The France team had been in action in the Stade de France on Friday as the first of the explosions could be heard. It later emerged that the stadium had been a target of the terrorists, only for them to be foiled at the gates. Although the match was played to its conclusion, the French squad joined their Germany counterparts in spending the night inside the stadium due to security concerns.
For two players their personal connection to the tragedy went even deeper. The cousin of midfielder Lassana Diarra was killed, while the sister of forward Antoine Griezmann managed to escape from the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people died. Both players remained with the squad for the trip to London but were not named in the starting lineup.