England captain Wayne Rooney expressed his condolences on Monday in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday that left 129 people dead and over 350 injured.
“On behalf of the players, we’d like to give our condolences,” Rooney told a press conference at England’s team hotel in Watford, north of London, ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against France at Wembley.
“It’s an incredibly sad time, with a lot of people losing their lives.”
Rooney said that he had spoken to some of his Manchester United team-mates involved in Friday’s friendly between France and Germany at the Stade de France in Paris, which coincided with three suicide bomb attacks outside the ground.
England’s players and coaching staff watched footage of the attacks on television in the team hotel in Benidorm following their 2-0 defeat against Spain and Rooney described what he saw as “sickening”.
He will lead his team out at Wembley on Tuesday, for a game that will be preceded by a minute’s silence and what is expected to be an emotional rendition of the French national anthem, ‘La Marseillaise’.
The Football Association will broadcast the words to the anthem on the stadium’s display screens and England’s fans have been urged to join in.
England manager Roy Hodgson said: “You’d need to be a French-speaker to sing along, but I’d encourage all the French-speakers in the public to do so.
“The fact we’re publicising the Marseillaise on the big screen shows how we feel.”
– ‘Eyes of the world’ –
Hodgson admitted that the match has lost much of its sporting significance in light of Friday’s gun and suicide attacks, which occurred at various locations across Paris.
“All we can do really is make certain we play the best game possible, but unfortunately whichever way we think about it, we can’t deny there’s something hanging over this game which is far far greater than a football match and a football result,” Hodgson said.
“We’ll do our best on the football field and I’m sure these young players will get great experience and they won’t let the country down.
“But I believe tomorrow (Tuesday) night is going to be a little bit more around us showing solidarity and people writing about this football match being played and the reasons for this match being played, rather than necessarily what actually happens on the field.”
FA chief executive Martin Glenn urged supporters to arrive early for the match, both to allow time for extra security checks and because of the tributes scheduled to take place before kick-off.
“The match tomorrow is going to have a massive global significance,” Glenn said. “It’s the first big event since the tragedy of last Friday.
“That’s why I think it is important for us to be supportive of them, to do something great together, to demonstrate that terrorism can’t win.
“The eyes of the world will be on us tomorrow, not just the French and the English people.”
England’s players and staff had earlier observed a minute’s silence prior to their pre-match training session at the Tottenham Hotspur training ground in north London.