Defiance of 90,000 French and English fans – including Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Cambridge has decided to join 90,000 English and French football fans at Wembley on Tuesday night in a massed show of defiance and solidarity over the Paris terrorist attacks.
The Duke, who is President of the Football Association, had not been due to attend the match but told the FA yesterday he wanted to be there to show the French people that Britain is right behind them.
Until the weekend, 14,000 tickets remained unsold for the friendly game, but all of them have now been snapped up after ordinary football fans decided to show their French counterparts – who are hosting next year’s Euro 2016 tournament – that terrorists will never win.
A spokesman for the Duke said: “He wants to go to show solidarity with the people of France. He was not scheduled to go but he decided today that he wants to be there.”
Wembley will be surrounded by one of the tightest security operations ever put in place for a football match, with a large number of armed police on duty and thorough searches of fans entering the stadium.
Prince William’s personal security is also likely to be beefed up, though Kensington Palace has a policy of never discussing security matters.
Fans have been asked to arrive 30 to 40 minutes early, not only because the extra searches will lead to queues but also because they will be asked to take part in a special show of support for the French five minutes before kick-off, which will include holding up placards that will make a giant French tricolour.
Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Terry, from Specialist Crime and Operations, said: “We want everyone coming along to the match to know that our officers will be out there in increased numbers, to keep them safe. This will include extra, highly visible, armed officers who will be patrolling around Wembley Stadium.
“Our focus is the public’s safety and security. I would stress that our plans are purely precautionary and not as a result of any specific intelligence.”
Martin Glenn, the Football Association chief executive, said: “The match starts at five to eight not 8pm. We want to spend five minutes demonstrating our solidarity. It will have a massive global significance. It is the first big event since Friday. The eyes of the world will be on Wembley. It is a chance to demonstrate that terrorism can’t win.”
The French squad includes Lassana Diarra, whose cousin Asta Diakite was one of those killed in Paris, and Antoine Griezmann, whose sister escaped from the Bataclan theatre. Both also played against Germany in the 2-0 friendly victory at Stade de France on Friday, which was also targeted by suicide bombers.
Mr Glenn said the French FA never considered abandoning the match.
“They were very clear the game went ahead. Mainly symbolic; that we can’t allow this act of terror to stop us. We must hang together.”
The words of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, will be shown on the big screens inside Wembley and, addressing French television at a media conference, the England manager Roy Hodgson spoke in French to say that he would be urging all England fans to join in.
Additional security measures have also been taken at the England team hotel and Hodgson admitted it was difficult to contemplate football at such a time.
“It is not a normal friendly”
“Our players were devastated with the news from Paris on Friday. We would have been content, we would have accepted it, if the game had been called off. A lot of French players are involved in English football – there is an enormous amount of empathy.
“Any opportunity the world of football has to do good should be taken. If the French feel it is a major statement on their behalf to continue their fight against terrorism, and that helps in any way, we are delighted.”
Wayne Rooney, the England captain, said: “It will be tough for the French players but I’m sure it will be a chance for them to do the country proud. We will represent England and show our respect to France at the same time.
“I think football globally does a lot for the world. It shows the world as one. Football has the power to do that. The world of football has to stay strong together. I’m sure everyone will do that and deal with this situation as best we know how.”