LONDON, November 19 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Thursday paid tribute to “the English community and English football” for their sympathetic reaction to last week’s attacks in Paris.
England fans sang the French national anthem prior to Tuesday’s friendly between the two countries at Wembley, while the stadium’s giant arch was lit up in the red, white and blue of the French flag.
Wenger, who attended the game and was caught on camera singing along to ‘La Marseillaise’, said that despite the attacks, which left 129 people dead and over 350 injured, it was correct for the match to go ahead.
“I would like to thank the English community and English football, who have shown great solidarity. It was a huge shock for our country and our football,” the Frenchman told his weekly press conference.
“You always think after this kind of event: do you continue to play, or do you stop your life? For me they made the right decision and the event on Tuesday night has shown it was the right decision.
“The football world has responded the way you want it to respond in a big union and togetherness.”
Wenger revealed that he had been due to attend last Friday’s friendly between France and Germany at Paris’s Stade de France, which was targeted by suicide bombers outside the ground, only for a late change of plans.
“I was late for my appointment, so I was late to the stadium and I decided to watch the game in the hotel where I was. I was more under shock than fearful,” he said.
“You could be scared because it was four different places attacked. You don’t feel secure anywhere. Everybody who was in Paris on Friday night was in shock. France is like England — a tolerant and generous country.”
While Wenger conceded that security at football matches was now “more of a question”, he said that the only way to respond to the attacks, claimed by Islamic State, was to go on living as normal.
“A way for us is just to get on with life and to respond in a positive way to the situation,” said the 64-year-old, whose side visit West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday.
“We cannot stop everything, (we have to) try to continue with our lives. It is more a way of life that is being targeted than any individual community.”