The expression of solidarity was there for all to see in November 2015 at Wembley as England hosted France, the visitors’ thoughts surely elsewhere. The famous arch was illuminated with the French tricolour, while the home fans partook in a booming, heartfelt rendition of La Marseillaise.
Western society had been shaken to its very core after the heinous, contemporaneous attacks on Paris which left 129 dead and hundreds more injured. And, those nations both geographically and politically closest to the France responded with touching displays of solidarity.
What happened that night was a perfect show of fraternity, conveying to the French nation that Britain was standing with them in their time of darkness. In the wake of Brexit and with the presidential election imminent, the French people will hopefully remember that there is strength in solidarity, not division and friction.
Our naivety is, of course, on display here but that simple and wonderful gesture highlighted everything about England and for one night solidified an often rocky relationship with their French neighbours.
Fundamental honesty of sport
We are always told that sport – in its on-field form – eschews politics but sometimes actions irrefutably suggest otherwise. Sport so often in its fundamental honesty, for there is very little complicated about two teams playing a contest, illustrates the connectedness of people.
We currently live in a world full of vitriol and lies, condemnation and blame. If Marine Le Pen is victorious in the upcoming election then the likelihood is that another of the cornerstones of the European Union will most likely depart the Union on a wave of anti-immigrant, irrational right-wing bile.
Francois Hollande most certainly let down those to whom he promised a socially conscious France and his promises to increase public spending were totally baseless. But if France goes then there will be even greater antipathy between France and England. If things continue as they are then the scenes of Marseille in 1998 are a probability rather than a possibility. It should not require a tragedy to focus the mind but Le Pen is using it in a negative way to break down any remaining European solidarity.