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French World Cup winner Petit fears terrorist attacks at Euro 2016

The ex-Arsenal midfielder has been speaking about living in Paris in the wake of last November’s events.

Petit is a Carlsberg ambassador for Euro 2016.
Petit is a Carlsberg ambassador for Euro 2016.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

FORMER FRANCE AND Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit admits he is fearful for the safety of fans at Euro 2016.

Hundreds of thousands of supporters, including many Irish, are set to descend upon the host nation of this year’s finals in June — just seven months after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris claimed the lives of 130 people.

As a reaction, steps have been taken by the French authorities to prevent similar incidents and organisers of the tournament announced earlier this month that the security budget has been increased by 15% to €35 million.

However, 1998 World Cup winner Petit, who lives in the French capital with his family, has explained how the threat of more violence remains.

“I wake up every morning with the army, when I leave home every morning to bring my kids to school I say hello to the army guys all the time,” Petit said yesterday during a visit to Dublin with the Euro 2016 trophy.

“It’s quite different as we’re not used to living with that threat, we thought for years that we were living with perfect security.

“I know the French have increased the security budget by 15% but since what happened a year ago, not far from our home, our police are tired. They are living under such pressure.

“I heard that some people spoke from Uefa said if there is a threat some games could be played without fans. But straight after that, the organisers said: ‘No, there will be fans whatever happens.’

Remember what happened in the game between France and Germany. I was supposed to be at the stadium. The guy wanted to come into the ground and try to explode as many people as he could.

“For me, this is very worrying. I’m not saying we are scared because we shouldn’t be but we have to consider that.”

He was referring the suicide bomber who attempted to gain access to the Stade de France during an international football friendly before detonating it outside the stadium killing one person.

He added: “It’s a different feeling for us you know. I don’t know, your (Ireland’s) history is based on political troubles in the past. You know what I mean, it’s quite difficult to explain. You know when you live with the fears and you are sometimes scared. But you cannot touch, it is invisible.

“You can happen anywhere, anytime, this is the most frustrating and scary thing. Nothing but threats. It’s just like a shark if you swim in the water, you don’t know where it comes from. It’s the same in France.

“We try to forget it, but it’s in the back of our mind all the time. We try to think we have security and we will fight against this but we will try and do it every day.”

Paris Attacks The Plot Fans on the Stade de France pitch after the Paris attacks back in November. Source: AP/Press Association Images

In January 2015, two men armed with assault rifles killed 11 people and injured 11 more after forcing their way into the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Petit recalls hearing the news and compared it to the September 11th events in New York.

“The first one, in January, I brought my kids to school, which I 300 metres from where it happened and I was having a meeting at home with some people and received phone calls,” he remembers.

“I don’t know, there are no words to explain what I felt. I switched on the TV and I couldn’t believe it, just like what happened with the World Trade Centre. I remember exactly where I was.

“What happened at the Bataclan, which is not far away either was very scary. I remember the days following that, people were so scared in the street. As soon as they noticed suspicious things, they were screaming in the street.

“I hope everything is going to be fine for the European tournament and I really think that it will be like this but it is still very, very close in our mind.”

Soccer - World Cup France 98 Final - Brazil v France Goalscorers Petit and Zidane celebrate in the 1998 World Cup final. Source: EMPICS Sport

Despite the concerns, he believes the only way to stand up to such terrorist threats is to unite as a nation.

“It’s important to show to the rest of the world whatever happens that even if we are scared, even if we are crying and we are losing people, that we stand in front of the adversity.

“I think this is probably the most important message we have to send – Unity altogether.”

Carlsberg ambassador Emmanuel Petit was in Dublin this week with the Euro 2016 trophy to announce Carlsberg Probably the biggest Euro Euro ticket giveaway in Ireland with over 1,100 Ireland match tickets up for grabs. To enter, go to Facebook.com/Carlsberg or visit participating outlets over the next six weeks

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Ben Blake

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