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The scene was surreal. In the 20th minute of play between arch-rivals France and Germany, the French back line passed back and forth trying to start an attacking move, when a loud boom sounded throughout the stadium. A few fans gave a slight, but audible cheer, completely unaware of the events that were unfolding just outside the gates at that exact moment. Perhaps they thought it was a random firework, or something else altogether. The words "bomb" and "terrorist attack" were not at the forefront of their minds, for understandable reasons.
We talk about football and many other sports in terms derived from warfare: attack, defense, counterattack, shots, flanks, etc. But it isn't war. Sports aren't important. Not really. Liverpool fans should know this more than most, having suffered the tragedy of supporters going to enjoy a game of football, only to never return. It is a fate no supporter, or the families and friends of supporters, should have to suffer.
Liverpool, of course, have connections to both French and German national teams. Emre Can played for Germany last night, and Mamadou Sakho would have seen the pitch for France, were it not for his recent injury.
The match was a friendly. The historical rivalry--very little of which is due to occurrences on the pitch--is well known. Yet, the two sides came together to participate in a meaningless match, even more meaningless than the typical competitive ones. It is a testament to how far we've come in recent decades, that our biggest conflict between France and Germany is one fought between 22 footballers on a small patch of grass. The prize is not territory, or resources, or compensation, but bragging rights.
German manager Joachim Löw perfectly summed up the appropriate sentiments:
"We are all in shock. The game and the goals move into the background on a day like this. All of us on the bench were a bit scared."
Earlier in the day, Can and the rest of the German national team were forced to leave their hotel after an anonymous bomb threat.
It is strange that the game was not stopped after the terrorist attack commenced. Football is not important, the lives being lost on the streets of Paris were. Maybe an argument can be made that continuing with life is the best way to confront the threat of terrorism. But not during a terrorist attack. Not when lives are at stake.
Appropriately, France's following match, a friendly against their other main historical rival England, has been postponed.
Here at TLO, our thoughts are with Paris, and the mourning friends and families who lost loved ones late last night. We hope we can soon return to treating football as more than it really is: just a game.