England v France
We all know how incredible the game of football is, whether you are a fan, a coach, a player or a friend of one of those, we all know how emotional it gets. Experiencing the incredible highs of winning games, trophies and leagues, to the lowest of lows when you lose. But thats the beauty of it, we never know what the outcome is going to be, what to expect each time you turn up to a game, however one thing always remains the same, football brings people together.
In most cases, it brings people together, friends or family, but i was fortunate enough, along with 80,000 others to be part of a game that brought together 2 countries, and if not that, the world. On Friday the 13th of November, sat on the coach returning from the England game against Spain in Alicante, we found out the devastating news of the attacks in Paris. The 45 minute journey back to the hotel felt like hours, I can only imagine what the people there that night were going through. The players and I all text and called our families and friends back home to check on their safety, but as every minute passed more news filtered through of more attacks and casualties. All of a sudden football meant nothing, all that mattered was the people involved in those attacks and thats all I could think about.
The following day, we did our best to debrief the game against Spain, but it was incredibly difficult in the circumstances. As a team we had to move on and look at what was next, a game against France. It didn’t seem right to be preparing for a game against a country that had just been torn apart by such a devastating event, but we had. The French federation and its players stood up and indicated the game at Wembley was to go ahead and I have so much respect for them. in the build up to the game, football was the second most important thing. The first was to be united and stand together as one against the attacks in Paris.
Eventually, it was the day of the game. We arrived at Wembley, shortly followed by the french players to floods of fans, almost matched by the amount of police. We knew it was going to be an emotional night. Everywhere we look we could see french flags, messages of support and faces painted with the symbol that became the face of the fight against the attacks.
It was difficult in the build up to the game to focus on football, it was hard for everyone to understand why it happened and just how big an effect it had. Before kick off, many presentations took place to remember the people who had lost their lives just a couple of days before. To see so many people, French and English stand together was incredible. The two teams lined up, not just the starting 11 but the whole squad of each nation, and we began to shake hands with each and every one of the French players. It was when i looked into the bloodshot eyes of the players as they passed, each and everyone one of them didn’t look themselves, they looked broken inside but they stood so strong.
Once the whistle went, somehow everything that had happened disappeared into the background. That night football brought everyone back together and it echoed all over the world. It wasn’t about the score, the performance or who played, it was about the game just happening and letting the power of football do the rest.