Paris terror attacks

French players moved by grieving teammate, says coach Deschamps ahead of England friendly

Lassana Diarra, who lost a cousin in the Paris terror attacks, decides to remain with the squad

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 November, 2015, 9:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 November, 2015, 9:30am

France coach Didier Deschamps said his players had been moved by grieving teammate Lassana Diarra’s decision to remain with the squad following the Paris terror attacks.

Diarra’s cousin, Asta Diakite, who the Marseille midfielder described as “a big sister”, was one of the 129 people killed during the rolling attacks that struck Paris last Friday.

We have two players who have been more affected, but in different ways
Didier Deschamps

But he elected to remain with the squad preparing for Tuesday's friendly against England, along with teammate Antoine Griezmann, whose sister escaped the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall that left 89 people dead.

“We have two players who have been more affected, but in different ways,” Deschamps said.

“For Antoine Griezmann, the circumstances are happy. In his case, it’s a relief and a happiness to have been able to keep his sister with him after she was present during the show at the Bataclan.

“Lass is hurting to the bone over a person who is very close to him. Lass wanted to stay with us and to hold onto those values of unity and solidarity. His presence with us is reassuring.”

The first sign of Friday’s horror arrived during the first half of France’s friendly against Germany at the Stade de France, when a huge explosion could be heard outside the ground.

It proved to be one of three suicide bombings targeting the match, which claimed the lives of the three attackers and one bystander, but France’s players and staff were not made aware of the attacks that had hit the city until after the game.

“We were in the match, without having heard the explosions or known what had happened,” said Deschamps, who was addressing the media for the first time since the attacks.

“We were really brought up to date at the end of the match. We obviously realised that there had been a disaster around the stadium and in the centre of Paris.

“The German delegation was put under the responsibility of the French State. Independently of the security problems, we stayed with them.

“I spoke to (Germany coach) Joachim Loew and the German officials. It was important for me to stay with them until a decision was taken.

“We left late and we arrived during the night at Clairefontaine and tried to eat something before trying to sleep. But I can’t hide that it was a very short night for everyone.”

France's players and staff have been sequestered at the Clairefontaine national training centre since the attacks and Deschamps admitted that it has been an immensely difficult period.

“Even though we were together at Clairefontaine, we weren’t cut off from the world,” he said.

“Each of us followed the disastrous news that was being reported. I made a point of talking about it. The players also discussed it between themselves.

“We can’t forget. We’ve had two days to get over this immense sadness. Today we're here and our energy has to be focused on preparing for this match with as much dignity and solemnity as possible.

“We’re here with the players and the staff to represent our country and show that we’re proud to be French in a historic, wonderful place, with the English people and supporters, who I thank for their messages of solidarity. I’m sure that the match will be full of emotion.”