Paris Explosions Heard During German Soccer Match – Wall Street Journal
A sold-out stadium hosting a live soccer match before more than 80,000 fans was among the sites targeted in Friday night’s attacks in Paris. Witnesses reported hearing two explosions at the Stade de France, or in its immediate vicinity, in the first half of an exhibition game between the French national soccer team and Germany, the defending world champion.
At least one of the blasts was heard clearly inside the stadium, located in the northern suburbs of the city, and on the television broadcast. Witnesses inside the 81,000-capacity venue said that news began to spread around the stands late in the second half.
French President François Hollande, who was in attendance, was evacuated during the game.
Noel le Graet, president of the French soccer federation, said officials decided at halftime not to inform the fans or the players of what was playing out in Paris and outside the stadium immediately.
“We didn’t want to spread panic in the crowd,” he told reporters at the Stade de France.
The game was played until the end of the regulation 90 minutes, with France winning 2-0. Only after the game ended did Mr. le Graet inform the teams and the coaching staffs about the events unfolding in the city.
The German men’s national soccer team tweeted, “Closing whistle. But soccer is far in the background on this black evening for Paris.”
“The French Football Federation shares all of the emotion that is shaking the nation after Friday’s tragic events in Paris and near the Stade de France,” Mr. le Graet said in a statement.
Germany’s team hotel had been evacuated in the early hours of Friday morning following a bomb threat.
“We are all shaken and shocked,” German soccer coach Joachim Löw said on German television in a postgame interview on ARD public television. “We are somewhat at a loss. We must get advice on what to do.”
The team stayed in the dressing room after the game, while it awaited instructions on when and how to leave, ARD reporters in the stadium said.
Reinhard Rauball, the head of Germany’s professional soccer league, described sitting next to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the stadium. Minute by minute, he said, the foreign minister was informed of increasingly tragic details of the unfolding attacks.
Mr. Steinmeier was in Paris to, among other things, honor French volunteers who helped salvage the wreckage of the Germanwings crash in the French Alps earlier this year. Mr. Steinmeier was “horrified and appalled” by the attacks, the German Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.
Peter Altmaier, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, posted on Twitter, in French, “This evening we are all French.”
Many in the crowd said they could hear explosions but didn’t know the cause, and the game continued
Agnes Ndedi, 35, who attended the game with a group of children from a local football club, said screams could be heard from the stadium but the game continued. “We heard two explosions during the game,” she said.
At the end of the game, as crowds exited the stadium, a group came back running toward the entrance.
“We hid in the washroom for a while,” said Christophe Beaupuis, 38, who was attending the game with his two children.
Mr. Beaupuis was one of about a dozen people who stood outside the stadium late Friday night, waiting to get back to their cars. “We just want to get home, we don’t feel safe here,” said Mr. Beaupuis, who drove up from the south of France for the game.
A spokesman for the French national team didn’t return requests for comment, but told reporters that Tuesday night’s exhibition game against England in London could be canceled.
The attack on France’s national stadium comes seven months before the country is due to host the European soccer championships, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. Two of the 10 venues due to host games are in the Paris area, including the Parc des Princes in western Paris and the Stade de France in the St. Denis suburb. The Stade de France is also due to host the final.
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