While it appears as though the whole world is determined to stand up and show support and solidarity with the people of France after the horrors of the terrorist attacks on Paris last Friday, some Arsenal players were involved in the football friendly between France and England last night that brought the events into even sharper focus.
Perhaps the fact that the Belgium and Spain friendly was cancelled due to security fears and then the Germany v Holland game had to be called off at the last minute after a specific threat to the stadium meant that even more focus was on the game at Wembley and the tributes to the victims beforehand.
The Arsenal manager was in the crowd and our left back Kieran Gibbs started the game for the three lions but it was our players in the French team that spoke afterwards about how the events, the game and the tributes have affected them.
Laurent Koscielny was clearly affected and was pictured wiping away tears during the rousing rendition from both sets of fans of the French national anthem and while he struggled to really focus on the playing football part of the night, he was determined that the game needed to go ahead as explained in an Evening Standard report.
Koscielny said, “I know the English and they have great respect for the French. It showed last night. The English have experienced things in London and they know what it’s like to be bruised.
“We had to play. The decision was made on Saturday. We spent 48 hours together at Clairefontaine watching TV and being on the internet. We were just talking about the events and tried to evaluate these tragedies. We tried to clear our heads but Friday’s attack returned all the time. But it was important for us to play for those who have watched us and the victims.”
Another player clearly struggling to contain his emotions was the former Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna, who added, “Of course, I had tears in my eyes. I am touched like many people. I am French, and what concerns the French people also affects me. This will remain in our heads. Unfortunately, we cannot erase what has happened.
“We wanted to win to give a beautiful image. Even if it does not restore the smile, it was the least we could do to add our support.”
Olivier Giroud had hoped that France could have won the game to give the French people some small crumbs of joy in this difficult time, but he also knows that the symbolism of the game and the unity shown from the two rival nations was a lot more important and why the players were determined for it to go ahead.
He said, “We wanted to play this match for all the people who have stayed in Paris and to honour the families [of the victims]. It wasn’t easy for us. There were a lot of emotions after what has happened these last few days, illustrated by the minute’s silence and La Marseillaise.
“Everyone who played are professional players. Even if it wasn’t easy, we had to do our work on the pitch. Despite the circumstances we wanted to do our best to represent the country. We were proud to do it.
“We played against an effective English team and they caused us many problems. It wasn’t really us out there. This [defeat] is not the end of the world but we still wanted to win to make it even more of an honour.”
We can only hope that this gesture from the world of football can help in some way.