By Samindra Kunti
March 29 – Tonight France return to the Stade de France for the first time since the Paris attacks in November. French manager Didier Deschamps realises it will be an emotional game.
Terrorist atrocities across the French capital killed 130 people in November, with three suicide bombers dying in blasts outside France’s national stadium as the French were hosting Germany in a friendly match.
President Hollande was evacuated, but the match continued as the news of the terror filtered through. France went on to win 2-0, but the game was overshadowed by the attacks.
Both the French and German delegation remained inside the stadium until security personnel gave the go-ahead to leave. The EURO2016 hosts meet Russia today as France return for the first time to the scene of the events.
“You don’t forget, but you have to move forward,” said Deschamps.
“It’s important to return to the Stade de France to find our point of reference and confidence,” said Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Security at the national stadium will also be on high alert following last week’s Brussels attacks which left 35 dead.
“We have to have confidence in the security officials,” added Lloris. “We have to continue to live and to live our passion together, it’s important.”
In light of the Paris attacks and Brussels atrocities, there are growing concerns that terrorists may target EURO2016. UEFA and the LOC have vowed that the tournament will not be derailed.
Security will be beefed up. France has maintained a national state of emergency, which will continue until May at least. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced extra security measures for the tournament matches, including video surveillance and private security agents – on top of the 120,000 police and soldiers that have already been deployed to safeguard France.
Euro 2016 organisers will deploy an average of 900 security personnel per match and 10,000 over the whole tournament. UEFA and the local organizers are also drawing up anti-terror contingency plans for a worst-case-scenario.
Last weekend French Prime Minister Manuel Valls insisted that the tournament will go ahead as planned. “The terrorists wanted to suppress life,” said Valls on state TV. “The Euros should be held, and will be held.”
“The strongest answer to terrorists, in addition to the deployment of all intelligence and security measures, is life,” said Valls.
For Deschamps France – Russia is a last opportunity to watch his players in action before naming his 23-man Euro 2016 squad. France have been drawn alongside Romania, Albania and Switzerland in Group A. Russia are in Group B with England, Wales and Slovakia.
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