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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 24 July, 2019
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From Paris to Perth, sporting world remembers massacre victims

Fans joined the teams in an impeccably observed minute’s silence.

Laurent Blance was among those to take part in the tributes.
Laurent Blance was among those to take part in the tributes.
Image: Petros Karadjias

FROM PARIS TO Perth, Melbourne to Montpellier, sports stars, coaches and fans united in their tributes to the victims of this week’s bloodshed in the French capital.

After elite forces stormed two hostage sites, killing the brothers behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre and a jihadist accomplice in a fiery end that also claimed the lives of four hostages at a city centre supermarket, sports remembered the victims.

At the Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris’s plush western outskirts, players of the Stade Francais and Castres rugby teams sported T-shirts bearing the slogan “Je Suis Charlie”, the global rallying call of protests which have spread since Wednesday’s attacks on the headquarters of the satirical weekly.

Fans inside the 20,000 capacity arena joined the teams in an impeccably observed minute’s silence before a mighty rendition of La Marseillaise was belted out.

The stirring national anthem even continued into the opening stages of the game despite the ground being far from full.

“We were all affected by what we saw,” said Stade coach Gonzalo Quesada after his team’s 49-13 win.

“The players were saddened and stressed but agreed that it was necessary to play the game and represent the city of Paris. I asked myself all afternoon whether we should play or not.

“I told the players that we should be privileged that people were coming to the stadium. We had to show a state of mind that makes Paris proud.”

Meanwhile, at Montpellier in southern France, spectators at the top-flight football match between the home side and league leaders Marseille also observed a minute’s silence before the national anthem.

Players of both sides wore black armbands as the game at the Stade de la Mosson kicked off.

The minute’s silence will be repeated over the weekend at all Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 games as well as national rugby and basketball matches.

All amateur football games due to be played in Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France region have been called off.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc admitted it had not been easy to prepare for Saturday’s Ligue 1 clash with Bastia in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

“We have to work hard and train, even if it’s not in a happy context,” said Blanc.

“We got together in the centre-circle at midday (Thursday, for the nationwide minute’s silence) just like the rest of the country.

“Footballers are citizens who are not insensitive to what’s happening.”

- ‘Dreadful, terrible’ -

Over in London, Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger said he hoped his compatriots would stay united after the “dreadful and terrible” attacks.

Wenger expressed his dismay at the events and hopes that what happened will not polarise the French population along religious or ethnic lines.

“It is a dreadful and terrible situation,” the Frenchman said. “It is shocking. I think the whole country is shocked.

“France is a country with a freedom of speech, it has a big history and to think in a country like France you can die today because of your ideas and the way you want to speak is absolutely shocking.”

Thousands of kilometres away in sweltering Australia, French tennis star Alize Cornet honoured her compatriots during her win over Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska at the Hopman Cup in Perth.

Cornet came onto the court with “Je Suis Charlie” on a handwritten note on her bag, having tweeted the same message just hours after the attack on Wednesday.

Cornet glanced at the message at each change of ends and pointed to it at the conclusion of the match.

Speaking after the win, the 24-year-old said she had been deeply affected by the tragedy at home.

“I was horrified, I was so shocked and very emotional about it,” she said, describing the victims as “people you know so well, you have the feeling they are part of your family”.

Also in Australia, Oman football team’s French coach Paul Le Guen said he was in shock.

Speaking ahead of Oman’s Asian Cup game against South Korea on Saturday, the ex-Lyon boss sent his condolences to families grieving in France.

“It’s unusual but I want to say one word about what has happened in France,” the former Paris Saint-Germain star said, unprompted.

“My thoughts are with the families in France who were involved in this drama. We feel very sad, we are in a state of shock.”

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