France players expect emotional return to Stade de France for Russia friendly
PARIS -- France's players expect an emotional evening when they return to the Stade de France for the first time since the Nov. 13 bombings at the national stadium.
France continues its warm-up for the European Championship against Russia on Tuesday, less than five months after 130 people were killed on a night of attacks in Paris. Suicide bombers detonated explosives outside the stadium during France's friendly against Germany, killing one bystander.
"We are human beings before being sportsmen," Arsenal and France striker Olivier Giroud said after Friday's 3-2 win in Amsterdam against the Netherlands. "It will obviously affect us to go there."
The friendly match against Russia will be the first soccer game at the Stade de France since the attacks. France has played three Six Nations rugby matches there without incidents amid strengthened security.
Security measures in place on Tuesday night will include increased checks on public transportation and around the stadium.
A first safety perimeter will be set up away from the gates with ticket checks and body searches. Fans will face more security measures once at the turnstiles.
With France and the rest of Europe on high alert following the Brussels attacks on Tuesday that left 31 dead, the game will also serve as a dress rehearsal for security services ahead of the month-long Euro 2016, starting June 10. About 2.5 million fans are expected to attend matches in 10 host cities, giving authorities a major security challenge.
Despite the high level of threat, France defender Christophe Jallet said he would not be discouraging his friends from going to the Stade de France.
"Life should go back to normal," Jallet was quoted as saying by L'Equipe.
"Everything is being done to guarantee security," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "The Paris and Brussels tragedies are a reminder of the current environment, but we need to move forward."
Yohan Cabaye, who came on as a substitute in the Nov. 13 match took it a step further, saying the team would be trying to win the Euro to honour the fallen victims.
"It was a very sad moment, very difficult," Cabaye told the BBC. "It's in that bad time that the country came back and stuck together just to show everyone that we are determined to fight for our country.
"All the fans, even us; we're going to think about what happened in November and it will be nice to win for those victims as well."
Cabaye's spot is not yet secure in Deschamps' squad, however the Crystal Palace midfielder was included in the squad for the friendly vs. the Netherlands and the upcoming one vs. Russia.
"It will be a big competition at home. Of course I want to be in the squad," he added. "We are focused on that competition just to win it.
"We've got a good team. Some of the young players are fantastic.
"I think we have to get that winning mentality. Every game I hope the crowd will be like a 12th man on the pitch, just to help us and give us something more.
"In the last two home competitions, I think France won it. So maybe."