I used to live in Paris for just over two years. Living less than 30 minutes away from the Stade de France, I used to get my live football fix there. I saw David Beckham get his 100th England cap there and watched the French national team several times in the run up to the 2010 World Cup Finals.
It was obvious when the news first trickled out of Paris this week that suicide bombers had blown themselves up outside the stadium, that they had failed in their intention. There can be no doubt that their original aim was to detonate inside the stadium, while the game was on in full view of live TV audiences watching in both France and Germany.
This is why it is important to highlight the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) statement below in both its praising of the work of stadium security on the night and for the rational headed approach it calls for in the aftermath.
My Old Man Said has been a member of the FSE for a few years now, most recently I personally went along to their congress this year in Belfast and met many good people there and got to learn about the wider scale of the FSE’s work and the issues on a European front that they tackle and help inform. MOMS certainly agrees with their sentiments below.
HOSPITALITY INSTEAD OF HOSTILITY IS THE BEST SECURITY MEASURE NOW
At FSE we are still shocked and appalled in the light of the horrible attacks in Paris. Our thoughts are with the friends and families of the victims. Likewise, our very best wishes go to all people in Paris and particularly those friends and members of FSE in France who survived the attacks at the stadium and at the other sites. Some of them survived almost by coincidence but certainly all of their lives and those of many others have changed forever.
Others though, potentially thousands at Stade de France during that night on 13 November 2015, only survived thanks to the work of stewards at the stadium gates. These stewards identified one of the attackers wearing an explosives vest when he was frisked in a routine search at the stadium entrance around 15 minutes into the match. The attacker then backed away from security and detonated the vest. Two other explosions followed, each outside the stadium shortly afterwards, killing three people in total. Thanks to these stewards though, the explosives didn’t go off beyond this point. These people therewith saved potentially the lives of thousands of football fans, match officials, players and others at the friendly match between France and Germany who were inside the stadium at that time.
Quite a few of the stewards on duty at Stade de France that day were Muslims. They were Muslims, just like many other security guards who work in the football stadia to service the safety of the fans across Europe every weekend. They are also Muslim just like many football fans and FSE members inside the stadia of football clubs all across the continent, both in Eastern and Western Europe, in the North and in the South.
As FSE Committee, and in the light of current debates and hatred stirring up against Muslims or refugees as entire groups, we think it is important that we all remind ourselves of the fact that these attackers don’t act in the name of a majority of Muslims. Furthermore, as the terrorists targeted football, amongst others, and in view of EURO 2016 coming up in France, we urge authorities and the football world, to not be trapped into seemingly obvious or potentially easy answers to these events for the future now.
History and too many tragedies in football and beyond have shown that neither can there ever be a 100% security guarantee nor does a one-sided focus on restrictions, surveillance and high-profile policing in response to such events lead to substantial improvements. Contrary to that though, a welcoming environment and an intelligence-led but service-driven approach towards the majority of peaceful spectators, in collaboration with and with active support of these, has proven to be the most sustainable & successful combination to maximise security & safety in football.
Hospitality should be at the core of our response to these terrorists in France and elsewhere for the years to come, rather than the opposite. Otherwise, we would just serve the terrorists intention to incite hatred, hostility and division on the back of the most vulnerable, and among all those communities who actually share the ideals of equality, liberty and fraternity, whether it’s in our stadia or beyond, and no matter which religions group they belong to.
We shouldn’t allow them to achieve this.
Football Supporters Europe (FSE)
FSE is an independent, democratic and representative network of grassroots football supporters with members in currently more than 45 countries in Europe. FSE’s members are representing more than 3.5 million football supporters in total, including individual fans, ultra groups, fan club representatives and national fan organisations, thereby making FSE the biggest fans’ organisation in the world. The members of FSE are united by the commitment to a set of key values such as anti-discrimination, to the rejection of violence and good governance. FSE is the main interlocutor of UEFA on fans’ issues and works with a number of other institutions and football governing bodies, such as the Council of Europe or the EU.
Follow Football Supporters Europe on Twitter – @FansEurope
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid