LONDON, Nov 17, (Agencies): 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 Tuesday’s 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 team-mate 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. UEFA has confirmed that the 2016 European Championship soccer tournament will take place in France as planned despite the deadly attacks that struck Paris on Friday.
“The EURO final draw will go ahead as scheduled on 12 December at the Palais des Congres in Paris and the final tournament will be played in France from 10 June to 10 July 2016,” UEFA said in a statement on Monday. Coordinated attacks, for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility, took place in Paris bars, restaurants, a concert hall and outside a soccer stadium on Friday killing at least 129 people and wounding 352 — the worst atrocity in France since World War II.
“Following the dramatic events that occurred last Friday in Paris, UEFA and EURO 2016 SAS wish to reaffirm their commitment in placing safety and security at the centre of their organisational plans,” the statement read. “While there is no reason to believe that the EURO might become the target of any attack, the potential terrorist threat has always been taken into account, since the beginning of the project.”
French Sports Minister Patrick Kanner said on Tuesday there was “no question” of cancelling Euro 2016 in France despite last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris. “The Euro will be staged in conditions of maximum security, strengthened as a result of the events which we have just lived through. The Belgium-Spain international friendly in Brussels on Tuesday has been cancelled on the recommendation of the national crisis centre following the Islamist attacks in Paris, official sources said.
The centre, under the interior ministry, recommended the cancellation of the match after the terrorist threat level was Monday raised to three, or severe, for the whole country, representing a possible and credible threat, according to a statement.