It was a moving scene which few English football fans could ever have envisaged: joining in a rousing chorus of an opponent’s national anthem ahead of a game at Wembley Stadium.
But last night, tens of thousands of England supporters and players joined their French counterparts to sing a rendition of La Marseillaise – led by the Band of the Coldstream Guards – in a show of solidarity for France in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Spectators streamed through the iconic Wembley arch last night lit up in the red, white and blue of the French tricolour as England took on France in the first football match played by the French team since Friday’s atrocities.
The game went ahead despite a terrorist alert in Germany which saw the country’s match against Holland cancelled 90 minutes before kick off amid fears a bomb threat was planned for the Hanover stadium.
France were playing Germany on Friday night in Paris when suicide bombers tried to gain access to the French national stadium – one of a number of attacks across the French capital which killed 129 people and injured hundreds more.
Security was stepped up to an unprecedented level at Wembley’s planned friendly game last night. Armed police were visible at the match, while 5,000 troops were on standby, with the SAS given a shoot to kill order in the event of a terrorist attack.
Many fans were waving banners and tricolour flags in support of the French people, emblazoned with slogans including “Vive la France”, while Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William, president of the Football Association, stepped onto the pitch to lay flowers to remember the 129 people killed in the attacks on the French capital.
The national motto of France, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”, was emblazoned above the arch, while many England fans waved the French flag as well as the St George’s Cross in a display of solidarity.
Players on both sides wore black armbands during the match to mark the deaths of the people gunned down by terrorists in bars, restaurants and a concert hall in Paris on Friday night.
Those at the stadium observed a minute’s silence before kick off, while England fans joined in the French national anthem, with the words broadcast on big screens to help unite both sides in support of the French nation.
I can’t deny there’s something hanging over which is far, far greater than a football match”ROY HODGSON
The teams posed together for a joint photo before kick off at 8pm last night.
However, safety fears caused the Germany-Holland match to be cancelled after fans had already begun to arrive at the stadium. It is believed that a suspicious package, thought to be a suitcase, was found near to the stadium around an hour before the match was cancelled.
German police issued a statement to fans: “The game has been cancelled. Please go straight home but stay calm.”
The move follows yesterday’s decision to cancel Belgium’s friendly against Spain in Brussels.
Just hours before the England-France game kicked off, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge signed a book of condolence at the French Embassy in London, offering their sympathies for the victims of Friday’s attacks.
London mayor Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were also set to attend the match. An extra 10,000 tickets had been sold since Friday in a show of support.
Coach Roy Hodgson said that the game was not a “normal friendly”.
“I can’t deny there’s something hanging over which is far, far greater than a football match,” he said.
FA chief executive Martin Glenn said there was “no specific intelligence” about an attack at the friendly similar to the ones that occurred outside the Stade de France.