PARIS: From Sao Paulo to Shanghai, London to Prague, sport defiantly united in its condemnation of the Paris attacks on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as teams and fans resorted to extraordinary measures in the aftermath of the killings.
The world champion German football team, which had been playing France at Paris’s Stade de France when three suicide bombers struck outside the arena on Friday, took the unusual step of spending the night inside the dressing rooms before flying home on Saturday morning.
“The players were very worried, the information was not very clear and we didn’t want to take any risk on the road, so we decided not to drive through Paris…. (which was) not 100 percent secured and so we stayed in the dressing room,” said Germany manager Oliver Bierhoff.
French midfielder Lassana Diarra, who played in the game, revealed that his cousin had died in the attacks.
“As you may have read, I was affected personally by the attacks. My cousin, Asta Diakite, was among the victims of one of the shootings, along with hundreds of other innocent French people,” the 30-year-old Diarra wrote on Twitter.
“She was like a big sister to me, a guide and support.”
France will next play England at Wembley in London on Tuesday where even notoriously tribal English fans are being encouraged to learn the words to France’s stirring national anthem, the Marseillaise ahead of the game.
Mark Pougatch, a football presenter with Britain’s ITV television channel, who will be broadcasting the match, tweeted on Saturday: “If you have a ticket for Wembley on Tuesday then it’s time to learn La Marseillaise. Time to show what fraternite is about.”
There had been doubts over whether or not the game would go ahead in the aftermath of the attacks.
The Marseillaise was also played before the European Champions Cup rugby match involving English side Saracens and French giants Toulouse in north London on Saturday.
Across France, major sports fixtures including rugby games in the European Cup, and the Trophee Bompard in figure skating were called off.
London on alert
Elsewhere in London, no stranger to deadly militant attacks, security for this week’s ATP World Tour Finals was bolstered as the world’s top eight tennis players prepared to play at the O2 arena on the banks of the Thames.
Superstars Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are all slated to play at the 20,000-capacity stadium.
“Venue security is monitored at all times to ensure the safety of all our visitors,” said a spokesman who added all bags will be searched while fans will be banned from bringing in their own food and drink.
In Prague, meanwhile, tennis star Maria Sharapova, the world’s highest earning sportswoman, expressed her sadness at the events in Paris where she was French Open champion in 2012 and 2014.
“I fell asleep last night so I wasn’t aware of anything until this morning. (It’s) a big shock. It’s one of my favourite cities in the world and it’s obviously very tough to see the news and the pictures,” said Sharapova, who was in the Czech capital playing for Russia in the Fed Cup final.
In Manchester, David Beckham said he understood the decision of former France internationals Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira not to play in his charity match staged at Old Trafford in aid of UNICEF.
“I understood why Zizou [Zidane] took the decision not to play,” Beckham said.
“He was very respectful to me and to everything that he had promised about coming over. He is a friend first and foremost.”
In the United States, the gridiron team of the US Military Academy took the field for a game against Tulane University in front of 40,000 fans at West Point flying the French flag above their own “Army” banner.
Meanwhile, basketball superstar LeBron James offered “prayers and condolences”.
“Our world right now is having so many different tragedies. So many different innocent people and victims are losing lives over nonsense,” James said.
At the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, French driver Romain Grosjean took to the track wearing a black armband while his Lotus car sported #PrayForParis on its bodywork.
At the Shanghai golf Masters, the seven French players taking part wore black as a mark of respect if they had such clothing with them.
Ryder Cup star Victor Dubuisson wore a black shirt, black sweater and a black visor.