Players linked arms as fans stood to observe a minute’s silence at Stade de France one year after the Paris attacks. Friday’s poignant silence before the World Cup qualifier between France and Sweden remembered victims of the attacks on November 13 last year, which saw 130 people killed and hundreds more injured.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks. The night of terror began when three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Stade de France, where France was playing Germany in a friendly match. One passerby was killed. At least one of the bombers tried to enter the stadium but was foiled by security guards.
Security measures were the same Friday as they have been since the attacks, with spectators patted down and their bags searched twice _ once near to the stadium and the second time close to the entry gates. But the atmosphere was calm and relaxed. Several international rugby and soccer matches have been played at this stadium since then, including the European Championship final in July.
Players from the French and Swedish national teams stood facing each other either side of the halfway line, many with their heads bowed as they solemnly remembered the victims.
“In a way we’re linked to this drama,” France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris said on the eve of the match. “You have to try and move forward, look ahead. Even though these events will probably stay in our memories for life.”
However, it wasn’t quite a perfect silence. A few random voices _ among 80,000 fans _ shouted out sporadically, but it was otherwise impeccably observed.
Moments before the silence, France’s national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” was played as usual. But this time something different happened. Fans were already singing heartily when the accompanying music suddenly stopped halfway through, and the noise levels went up considerably as only the sound of supporters singing could be heard echoing around the stadium.
The November 13 attacks started at around 9:20 p.m. outside the stadium, during the first half of France’s match against Germany. French President Francois Hollande was evacuated from the stadium, and he was in attendance again on Friday to watch France beat Sweden 2-1.
Following the bombings outside the stadium last year, six cafes were targeted in quick and coordinated attacks and the heaviest bloodshed of all came at the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 of the victims were killed.
“Time passes but no one will forget or can forget what happened, that France was deeply affected,” France coach Didier Deschamps said after the match. “We can move forward, OK, but it was important to show our support for the families of the victims and all the people who were affected.”