French manager Didier Deschamps pays tribute to moment of communal grief as supporters show solidarity days after Paris attacks
The emotionally drained France football manager, Didier Deschamps, paid tribute to a moment of communal grief at Wembley that was a small act of catharsis in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Before the England-France friendly international, never had an opposition national anthem been sung (or hummed) more loudly or more lustily at the home of English football.
It was a moment when everyone came together. You felt it in your heart, you felt it in your gut, it was a special, moving, grandiose moment, said Deschamps.
But as La Marseillaise rang around Wembley on Tuesday night in defiance of the terrorists who caused carnage in Paris, the fans who sang it did so in the knowledge that a friendly between Germany and Holland in Hanover had been cancelled just before kick-off due to security concerns.
Deschamps said he had kept the news from his players, who were on the pitch against Germany at the Stade de France on Friday when three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside, adding to a final death toll of 129.
The moment when we all sang together was a powerful, emotional moment. Weve had this moment of communal grief almost, this outpouring of communal grief. Its been good for us, he said after a match that finished 2-0 to England but in which the score was all but incidental.
As they filed in an hour before kick-off, with the Wembley arch lit in red, white and blue and the words Libert, Egalit, Fraternit beamed on to the outside of the stadium, the mood among fans was bullish rather than nervous.
Its very important for us that the English will sing the national anthem tonight. The people are crying for the events that happened on Friday, but tonight its a match for humanity. We are not afraid, said Olivier Gombert from Lille, one of a group of French fans holding a union flag with the words together against terrorism on it.
Before kick-off, fans applauded giant flags representing both countries on to the pitch. In the tunnel, players from both sides, wearing black armbands, looked drawn.
After floral tributes were laid, the anthems sung and the intermingled players from both teams had stood side by side while applause rolled down from the stands, they stood around the centre circle for an impeccably observed minutes silence.
After an emotionally charged buildup, it seemed almost a relief for the players when the match began.
Hugo Lloris, the France captain, said afterwards: We lacked aggression and concentration but that is normal. It was more about solidarity.
Wayne Rooney echoed his counterparts feelings. Football is a global game and, as Didier Deschamps said, its not about religion or race, its about togetherness. Anyone can play the game of football, he said.
Hopefully tonight shows that whoever you are around the world you can come together. We need to stand tall and stand together in these tough times.
The England manager, Roy Hodgson, said the pre-match ceremony was very poignant.
We can be rightly proud we were able to put this event on. As weve said, the French FA were the ones who decided the game should go ahead, he said. It wasnt us pushing them to do it. As far as were concerned, an act of defiance is more important than the other alternative.
Among the 71,223 fans present were the prime minister, David Cameron, the FA president, Prince William, and the FA chairman, Greg Dyke.
In a speech to his French counterparts before the match, 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.
On Olympic Way, William Thomas, 24, who had travelled with his father from Sheffield wearing a red Steven Gerrard England shirt and carrying a tricolour in his back pocket, agreed that the score mattered less than the fact that the game had gone ahead.
Its definitely the right thing to do. I want England to win but if they lose I wont be disappointed. Ill try my best with La Marseillaise French wasnt my best subject at school, he said of the plan to beam the words to the French anthem on to the big screen inside the stadium.
For someone who doesnt support football, its hard to understand but there is a bond between fans. They try and try to drive us apart but the more they [terrorists] do it, the closer we get. Were all human atheist, Muslim, Christian, it doesnt matter.
Before the match, armed police mingling with the fans were a reminder of the increased security surrounding the fixture, for which fans had been urged to arrive early.
You dont give in do you? You dont give in to these people. Presumably what they want is for us to go home and shut our doors and hide under the bed or something like that. Were not going to do it, said Steve Trice from Lincolnshire.
In the immediate aftermath of Fridays attacks, it appeared the match would be called off, but the French FA president, Nol le Grat, ruled that the game should go ahead and Deschamps said none of his players had said they did not want to play.
The French squad included Lassana Diarra, who lost his cousin Asta Diakit in the attacks, and Antoine Griezmann, whose sister Maude escaped the attack at the Bataclan concert hall. Both came on in the second half to warm applause.
For once, the half and half friendship scarves being snapped up from hawkers outside the stadium seemed appropriate.
Before the match, Cameron had said: The barbaric terrorist attacks in Paris have shocked the world but also united us in our unwavering resolve to defeat this evil. At Wembley, football fans will show their solidarity for the French people. They will send a clear message the terrorists will never win.