For a few hours, they were not rivals. For a few hours, England and France did not let fear or grief take over and showed solidarity in their friendly match held at the Wembley Stadium on Tuesday night.
Coming together to show defiance and respect, players and fans from each side during the match held just four days after the deadly terror attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13th.
Prince William and the teams’ respective managers – England’s Roy Hodgson and France’s Didier Deschamps – carrying wreaths while the crowd of 70,000 fans waved flaglettes, led the players to the field.
During the pre-game ceremony, England and France supporters were in unison in singing the French national anthem before both teams formed a circle in the center of the pitch for a minute of silence to pay tribute to the 129 people that perished in the Islamic States’s bloody attacks.
Wembley Stadium’s iconic arch was lit up in France’s colors of blue, white, and red, while the French motto “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” was projected on the front of the national stadium.
“It was a very poignant occasion and we achieved all the things we wanted to achieve in the rememberance. An act of defiance was better than the other alternative,” said Hodgson.
England won 2-0, but the result hardly mattered.
“This will be shown round the world and will show unity,” said England captain Wayne Rooney, who scored one of the team’s goals. “Football is a global game and . it is not about religion or race. We need to stand tall together in these tough times.”
France striker Olivier Giroud said it was an emotionally charged occasion, “illustrated by the minute’s silence and ‘La Marseillaise (France’s national anthem).’”
“We wanted to play this match for all the people who have stayed in Paris, to pay homage and to honor the victims and their families,” Giroud said after the match. “Everyone who played the match is a professional player. Even if it wasn’t easy, we had to do our job on the pitch.”
It can be recalled that the French players were caught up in the attacks that ripped through Paris in several locations on Friday – playing a friendly against Germany when two blasts resounded 15 minutes into the match. Both teams spent the night in the stadium as carnage struck elsewhere.
France midfielder Lassana Diarra’s cousin was killed and France forward Antoine Griezmann’s sister escaped from the Bataclan concert hall where 89 people died.
Diarra and Griezmann were among the 23-man squad that came to London, and both came on as second-half substitutes to applause.
Diarra lowered his head during the minute’s silence. Many France players, who had been told to play the game by the French Football Federation, looked emotional for what was the France’s first major public event since Friday’s terror attacks that resonated around the world.