By Costas Pitas and Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) – English football fans saluted France on Tuesday by roaring out the ‘Marseillaise’ national anthem at a friendly match which became a show of solidarity joined by British politicians and royalty just days after Islamic State militants struck Paris.
David Cameron, Prince William and London Mayor Boris Johnson were in the stands as tens of thousands of England supporters joined French fans in singing their anthem at Wembley Stadium which was guarded by armed police.
An estimated 80,000 fans then applauded wildly as the two teams stood together in one long line ahead of a perfectly observed minute’s silence in a solemn mark of respect for the at least 129 people who were killed in the Paris attacks.
The words of the French national anthem were displayed on large screens, the stadium’s arch was lit up in the blue, white and red of the French tricolour and supporters on both sides carried French flags and messages such as “Pray for Paris”.
“Seeing Wembley in blue, white and red gives me goosepimples,” said Eric Lavaud, a 55-year-old France supporter who travelled from St Tropez and was with around a dozen supporters who had come from France on Monday for the match.
“We know that the English are going to be welcoming… for the first time in history,” said Lavaud, who had draped a French flag around his neck and was at the Stade de France on Friday for the friendly with Germany. “We are not scared.”
Explosions at that match between France and Germany on Friday signalled the beginning of the worst attack on Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings. French President Francois Hollande was at that match.
A French player lost his cousin in Friday’s violence and the side stayed overnight in the Stade de France with the German team as a security precaution, but the French soccer federation said it was important the game with England went ahead.
A friendly football game between hosts Germany and Netherlands in Hanover was called off less than two hours before its start on Tuesday for fear of a bomb attack, German police said.
“THE KILLERS WON’T WIN”
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was important for Britain to stand side-by-side with its neighbour.
“Now, more than ever, we must come together and stand united and carry on with the way of life that we know and that we love,” he told parliament. “This match is going ahead.”
Fans applauded as wreaths were laid by Prince William and the managers of the two teams.
Police had urged supporters to arrive early due to additional security searches and said there would be “extra, highly visible, armed officers” patrolling around Wembley.
Common in European countries like France, armed police are generally rarely seen in Britain although they did patrol the London Olympic Games in 2012 and have taken on more of a profile in recent years due to fears of Islamist militancy.
“We’ll sing along and it’s going to be one of those evenings that will be very poignant,” said Paul Lloyd, a 52-year-old England supporter wearing a red England shirt.
“I just think that we’ve all got to come together against terrorism and they’re not going to stop us living our lives and being who we are. They won’t win.”
A match between Belgium and Spain due to take place in Brussels, where police have carried out raids in the wake of the Paris attacks, has been postponed for security reasons after the government advised against going ahead.
Ahead of the Wembley match during which players wore black armbands, French coach Didier Deschamps said his side would play England with “even more pride” and England manager Roy Hodgson said the match would be like no other he had played before.
“I really can’t imagine how this game is going to go and what sort of football is going to be played, quite simply because I’ve never been in this situation before,” he said.
(Editing by Kate Holton and Guy Faulconbridge)