Sport has no colour or religion

England players stand side by side with their French counterparts before the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
England players stand side by side with their French counterparts before the international friendly match at Wembley Stadium, London. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

The barbaric and cowardly attacks carried out in Paris remain at the forefront of the minds of many. The attackers were so indiscriminate that a state of terror remains evident beyond the French capital.

With that in mind, I was somewhat surprised the England v France football match at Wembley took place just four days after such atrocities. This was especially so given both countries are highly placed as targets for terrorist attack.

John Halewood Dodd

John Halewood Dodd

Initially, I questioned what could be gained from the game recognising the emotional impact the attacks undoubtedly had upon the French team. One player had lost a cousin, and another’s sister had been a survivor of the shootings.

Being a keen football fan myself, I had been looking forward to this fixture, but now found myself questioning the relevance of a sporting encounter at this time.

With this backdrop I sat down to watch knowing similar fixtures in Europe had been cancelled. Although, I was hopeful of a good game I was intrigued as to how the players, spectators and television company would deal with this almost unique situation.

There had been suggestions many fans would stay away, but we English are a stoic lot as more than 70,000 were in the stadium. It was also confirmed more tickets had been sold than returned since Friday’s Paris tragedy.

Many England fans sported the French tricolour, while others held banners depicting their alignment with, and support for, the French people. The rousing rendition of La Marseillaise from both sets of players and supporters was little short of remarkable. The pundits had raised concerns the game would be little more than symbolic and suggested it was likely to be played at the pace of a testimonial match. The game proved to be a true contest and I found it to be hugely entertaining with England running out 2-0 winners.

The result was of little significance, but the fact sport, as is so often the case, became a platform to illustrate the true spirit of humanity was blindingly obvious.

As Didier Deschamps, the French head coach, had said prior to the game, “Sport has no colour or religion.