Sport

Sport unites to remember Paris tragedy

Cristiano Ronaldo was among the sportsmen to tweet his support for the victims of the Paris attacks
Cristiano Ronaldo was among the sportsmen to tweet his support for the victims of the Paris attacks

The world of sport united on Saturday to pay its respects and offer support to the victims of the Paris terror attacks.

Among the 129 people killed during a series of attacks across the French capital on Friday night was a cousin of footballer Lassana Diarra, who was playing for France against Germany in the city at the time of the incidents.

The former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid midfielder, who is currently with Marseille, said in a statement: "Following the dramatic events yesterday in Paris and Saint Denis, it is with a heavy heart that I heard this news today. As you may have read, I was touched personally by the attacks. My cousin, Asta Diakite, was among the victims of one of the shootings yesterday along with hundreds of other innocent French people. She was like a big sister to me."

More than 300 people were also wounded in the attacks, which were the second in Paris this year after 12 people were killed by gunmen in January and raise serious concerns about fans' safety at Euro 2016, which is being held in France next summer.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said: ''For the Euros, there was already a big worry. Today it's obviously even stronger.''

Following Friday's atrocities, France declared a national state of emergency and closed its borders, with numerous sporting events scheduled to take place in the country this weekend subsequently cancelled.

All five European rugby union fixtures due to be played in France were called off, with horse racing, taekwondo, athletics and figure skating among other sports affected, although it was confirmed on Saturday that France's international football friendly against England in London on Tuesday would go ahead as planned.

That match had been in doubt with one of Friday's attacks taking place near the Stade de France, where Les Bleus were playing Germany - a match Diarra was involved in.

The FA chairman Greg Dyke said: "Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with the city of Paris after these terrible atrocities. On behalf of the FA, I want to express our sorrow and send our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those who have lost their lives.

"After consulting this morning with the French Football Federation and the British Government, we have decided together that the match between our two countries at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday night should go ahead. We will use the opportunity to pay our respects to all affected and also to express our solidarity with the people of France."

That spirit of solidarity with France was reflected across the world of sport, with messages of support pouring in from players, clubs and governing bodies for the victims of the Paris tragedy while various tributes were being held at events this weekend.

UEFA said all of its matches in the Euro 2016 play-offs, U21 Internationals and U19 Futsal Cup over the coming days would see players wear black armbands and a minute's silence observed, while there was a minute's silence at many football and rugby matches in Britain on Saturday afternoon, including the England-New Zealand rugby league series decider.

Victims will be remembered ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, although not via a silence, with a minute of reflection already reserved in memory of those who have lost their lives in road accidents.

Instead, a French flag accompanied with a black ribbon will be draped over the truck used for the pre-race drivers' parade. The drivers will also wear black armbands at this stage.

Frenchman Jean Todt, president of motor sport's world governing body the FIA, said Paris victims would be honoured at Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix - in conjunction with the one-minute silence already scheduled in memory of those who have died in road traffic accidents.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, meanwhile, ordered the Olympic flag be put at half-mast after condemning the ''barbaric and cowardly acts'' in the French capital.

In tennis, organisers of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals offered their ''deepest condolences'' to those affected in Paris and said there is already enhanced security in place for the event, which begins in London's O2 Arena on Sunday.

Nicolas Mahut, who is one of two Frenchmen playing in London alongside Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the doubles, said: ''Tennis comes second now.

''I live in Paris. We are scared, of course, but I think that's what they want. I talked to my family and friends. I have some friends who were having dinner in Bataclan last night. They are safe.

"We are discussing with the ATP to do something, wear something on the shirt. We didn't talk yet to the other players but I'm sure they will also do something."

Cristiano Ronaldo was among the sportsmen to tweet his support for the victims, the Real Madrid forward saying: "'I can't be indifferent to the horror of the Paris attacks. My thoughts go to the victims & families. #prayers4paris''

Former England striker Gary Lineker said: ''It's just incomprehensible that human beings can be so evil to innocent, fellow human beings. What a mess of a species we are!''

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, NBA star LeBron James and golf world number one Jordan Spieth added their condolences, with the 'Pray For Paris' slogan and hashtag prevalent on Twitter.