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It was a strange atmosphere at Wembley. The horrific events in Paris meant the result between France and England was always going to be irrelevant, and yet one got the feeling that those who did turn up during what was a late surge in demand for tickets, would not have missed this match for anything.
One might think it inappropriate to even try and turn our attention to something so trivial given Friday’s events, but one of football’s biggest draws has always been its sense of escapism.
An air of separation
Even amidst the chilling noises of bomb blasts outside the Stade de France during France’s clash with Germany on that fateful night, football did its best to maintain an air of separation, with Patrice Evra’s brief look of bemusement the only acknowledgement of the terrifying reality outside.
Both coaches were reportedly told about what was going on at half-time. Neither decided to inform their players until the end of the game.
When the final whistle blew and word spread, fans streamed onto the pitch desperate to stay safe from the unfolding horror, while both squads spent the night in the stadium, which became something of a safe place in a city under attack.
No one would have complained if France’s visit to Wembley had been called off last night, but the decision to press ahead gave us all an opportunity to reflect on what’s really important.
Fans are still humans
It’s all too easy to get carried away about football’s wider significance. Losing a derby, getting relegated, or seeing your team knocked out of the cup, can all seem like the end of the world for a football fan.
But while sometimes irrational and overly passionate, football fans are still human-beings, and a moment of extreme tragedy quickly places things into perspective.
That’s not to say football fans are the sort to let grief define them. Indeed, there is always an underlying willingness to get back to normal as soon as possible, especially when the game’s power of escapism starts to wear thin.
Sense of normality more distant
Any sense of normality seemed further away than ever on Tuesday evening, particularly in light of the fear surrounding Germany’s postponed game with Holland, which served as a grim reminder that some things are far, far more important than watching 22 millionaires kick a ball around.
However, going back to Wembley, there was a faint glimmer of hope.
The end result was largely insignificant and yet we were all reminded as to just how powerful football can be.
The image of France’s stars (several of which are practicing Muslims) arm-in-arm with their English rivals and the noise of fans of both sides singing La Marseillaise reminded us all that above everything else, football is a chance for us to be together. We should always treasure that.
From football back to the volatile political situation
When the final whistle blew and England secured what was actually an impressive 2-0 win, many of us will have switched our focus back to the volatile political situation that has made the world a slightly scarier place.
But there were some defiant murmurs of how well England had performed. Some even spoke of what these teams could achieve next year at Euro 2016, suggesting that even in this difficult time, fans are determined to go back to talking about football again, and not let murderers eat away at the freedom we have to enjoy ourselves, whether that be at the match, in a restaurant or at a concert hall.
After all, enjoying ourselves is what makes life worth living.
Written by Tom Coleman
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomEcoleman
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