Belfast Telegraph

David Jeffrey: In light of Paris attacks, football has its part to play

By David Jeffrey

I can totally understand why the French Football Federation were so keen for their friendly against England to go ahead last week at Wembley — despite the abhorrent terrorist attack in Paris just a few days prior to the international.

There was obviously great debate ahead of the match about whether it should actually go ahead, with former England star Chris Waddle adamant that the game should have been postponed as the French players could not have been in the right state of mind to play a football match.

Other professional footballers agreed with him, but there was also the view that to cancel such a high profile fixture would be ‘giving in to the terrorists’ demands’ and ‘letting them win’.

I know French boss Didier Deschamps gave his players the option of pulling out while it was interesting to note a further 10,000 tickets were sold for the game, yet only 100 supporters wanted a refund.

Ahead of the match, the word defiance was heard and written a great deal and when the head of the organising committee of Euro 2016 was asked whether the finals should be moved from France or even cancelled, he responded by saying: “To even ask for a cancellation is to play into the hands of the terrorists.”

When discussing football and the impact it can have following such an atrocity, I prefer to use the word resilience.

We in Northern Ireland, having gone through 30 years of the ‘Troubles’, are well placed to comment on how life goes on following terrorist attacks.

When the Omagh bomb took place on that dreadful August day  in 1998 I was Linfield manager and we were playing Newry City.

Football becomes insignificant after such a tragedy.

Victory means less while a defeat certainly doesn’t have the same disappointment.

Perspective takes over.

But football does have a role in the days and weeks after such an atrocity.

I remember, following that cowardly act of terrorism, as the country mourned, there was never any suggestion that we would cancel upcoming matches.

It was important that we showed a resolve — and that word resilience.

Football and sport in general became therapeutic.

Of course, there is a time that should be respected for grieving — the pain and suffering is immeasurable — but out of an abnormal situation must come normality.

One of the biggest insults to a terrorist is for life to go on as usual. They want attention and glorification — to cause as much disruption as possible.

By staging football matches, by attending games, it is a show of solidarity.

A small show of strength in a battle against these monsters.

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