Wembley's global statement of unity stirs the soul after atrocity
Published 24/11/2015 | 00:00
'Tremble, tyrants and traitors
The shame of all good men
Tremble! Against you we are all soldiers
If they fall, our young heros
France will bear new ones
Ready to join the fight against you'
These words from arguably the world's most stirring and powerful national anthem, La Marseillaise, were sung in French by tens of thousands of French and English football fans at Wembley on Tuesday night, in an emphatic and defiant response to the attempt by ISIL to silence western culture into fear, panic and irrationality.
The anthem's lyrics echo resoundingly through time.
The song became the rallying call for the French Revolution having been written in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg after the declaration of war by France against Austria.
As the players took to the field forming a circle in the centre shoulder to shoulder, among them was Lassana Diarra, the French midfielder, whose cousin was killed during the shootings in central Paris four nights earlier. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the vision of unity and strength there for the world to see. Several of the French players were clearly deeply affected by the emotion of the occasion, which once again reflected the power of sport to unite people, whether it was a game of footie at Christmas 1914 between German and British troops, or matches between previously warring nations down through the decades.
The stadium was a sea of red, white and blue from top to bottom.
The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, was among those who laid floral tributes in front of the dug-outs, and David Cameron was also notably in attendance.
Four nights previously his French counterpart was attending the France versus Germany game when the sound of bombs exploding outside sent shockwaves through the stadium and later throughout the world.
As the game at Wembley began news filtered through of the discovery of suspicious devices found in Hanover near where the Germany versus Holland game was due to be played, precipitating its cancellation.
The singing of La Marseillaise at the 71,233 attended game sent out a message, loud and clear, to ISIL and terrosists or would-be terrorists around the world that senseless violence will always be combated by right-minded people. As the anthem states in such emphatic tones, the people of France are ready to die for freedom and terrorists are not special in this, (or any other respect). The meeting of the old rivals at Wembley showed that England fans, as they wrapped their tongues as best they could around the revolutionary anthem, and French fans, were united in grief at the loss of around 130 lives. The loss of people out enjoying a Friday night, like many of us will do over the coming weeks, (only at Christmas parties), was the sole focus of the night. The football came second. as Didier Deschamps, the France manager, said: 'I think we've had this outpouring of communal grief, and it's good for us. There was a sporting dimension to the fixture tonight, of course there was, but on a human level the match had far greater importance.'
Les Bleus had insisted on honouring this fixture, despite the obvious temptation to pull-out, and they received a fantastic welcome in England. The message of the Tricolore, 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite' glowed strongly from England's home stadium.