WAYNE ROONEY believes England’s friendly match against France going ahead tonight sends out a clear message of defiance against terrorism.
The Three Lions host the Euro 2016 hosts just four days after a series of attacks on Paris left 129 people dead and hundreds more injured.
Various tributes are planned in memory of the victims, including the singing of the French national anthem by the home crowd, ahead of a fixture that had initially been in doubt following the atrocities.
The French Football Federation, after consulting Didier Deschamps and his players, gave the go-ahead and a crowd of 80,000 plus is expected at Wembley amid heightened security measures.
Rooney, the England captain, said: “When I saw the images, it was sickening. It is a sad time. And we knew, when we saw it unfold (on Friday), there was a chance the game might not be on. A chance it was on, too. And we were happy to do whatever, either way.
“I am happy the game is on. It shows France wants to show these terrorists they are standing strong against them, and we have to support that. It will be a great night of togetherness for everyone to see, for the terrorists to see the world will go on and stand against them.
“Football does a lot for the world, it shows everyone as a unit. Football has the power to do that and I think the world of football needs to stay strong together. I am sure football will help bring everyone together.”
Supporters attending England’s final match of 2015 are being asked to arrive early due to extra security measures that will be in place. These are likely to include a search of every bag and increased numbers of security personnel both inside and outside the stadium.
The Football Association stress there has been no intelligence surrounding a possible security threat to the match against France, who UEFA confirmed yesterday will, as planned, host next summer’s European Championships.
But the fact a suicide bomber unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to Friday’s game at the Stade de France against Germany has highlighted how attractive a target sports events can be to terror groups such as Islamic State.
It is understood less than 100 supporters have contacted Wembley to ask for refunds in the wake of the attacks.
Otherwise, ticket sales have been strong in recent days due to England fans wanting to show solidarity with their Gallic cousins.
FA chief executive Martin Glenn said: “This is going to have massive global significance, the first major event since Friday. We can’t afford to let this act of terror cow us.
“It is safe anyway. We had the Indian Prime Minister there on Friday – a lot of issues between Hindu and Muslim there – and we know how to run a safe stadium. But procedures and standards will be tightened up.”
Ahead of kick-off, Rooney will lay a floral tribute and a minute’s silence will also be held.
“Before the game,” added the England captain, “it will be a bit strange. It might be difficult. I have never experienced going into a game with something like this having happened.
“As players, we have to trust in the security. As the manager has said, terrorism is an on-going thing. You never know when it is going to happen. Or where. We have to trust in the security we have as players and hope nothing does happen.”
As for how the players, and in particular Deschamps’ men, will cope tonight, Rooney added: “Sometimes, when bad things happen, football is the place where you feel more comfortable. Their players might take that into consideration.
“Once it kicks off, we will try and win the game. But it is a difficult situation for everyone.”
Match preview: Page 18.