How Stade de France tragedy unfolded
What is there to say? What is there to say on an evening that started as a party - and finished in terrible drama?
In the 17th minute of the friendly between France and Germany there came a first explosion that shook the Stade de France during the Paris attacks. At that moment, some supporters cried ‘Ole!’, clearly thinking it was a simple firework – the type heard on a weekly basis at stadiums around Ligue 1.
Two minutes later there was a second detonation, which plunged the stadium into silence. On the field, 22 men continued to play football, unaware of the drama that was unfolding only metres away.
Little by little, everyone in the Stade de France started to understand the gravity of the situation. No announcement was made, the football continued to be played and the stadium exploded with joy when France scored each of their goals.
At half-time, a helicopter began to fly over the ground. Telephone calls and text messages left no-one in any doubt. Football no longer mattered. “We were at Gate X. During the match, we heard two explosions but didn’t think anything of it,” one supporter said later. “At the end of the game we understood. The atmosphere was frozen.”
Yet there was still no sign of the problems coming from outside the Stade de France, so as not to alarm the 70,000 fans.
Goals from Olivier Giroud of Arsenal and Andre-Pierre Gignac sealed a 2-0 win but there was no joy at the end of the match. When the final whistle was blown by the Spanish referee, the PA system announced: “There have been incidents outside the stadium, please leave by the west gates.”
Just as at the end of every game, I went in the direction of the press conferences. We must continue to be professional. But one step outside... chaos. There was a huge crowd surge and people were shouting: “He’s armed. He’s going to shoot us.” And so we went back to the stands.
The French FA were categorical: there was to be neither press conference nor a mixed zone. The match between France and England is liable to be cancelled... football cannot live in these conditions