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November 18, 2015

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Belgium vs Spain match called off

AUTHORITIES cancelled a football match between Belgium and Spain amid heightened tensions after the Paris terror attacks while France’s friendly with England was to provide the focal point of tributes yesterday.

Armed police will patrol London’s Wembley Stadium, where England’s fans were urged to sing France’s national anthem in a show of solidarity for the 129 people killed in the French capital last Friday.

But a friendly between Belgium and Spain in Brussels was cancelled following the raising of the country’s terrorist threat level to ‘severe’.

“In consultation with the competent authorities and the Spanish national team, the Belgian FA has decided to cancel the match,” the Belgian Football Association said in a statement.

The association said it regretted the move, but added: “In view of these exceptional circumstances, we cannot, however, take any risk in security matters for our players and supporters.”

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said “some of us wanted to play this game” but told Cadena Ser radio that the security reasons had taken priority.

The coach of Germany, Joachim Loew, said that the world champion’s friendly against the Netherlands in Hanover would be played as “a symbol of freedom”.

Germany was playing France at Stade de France last Friday when three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the ground as part of the assault that rolled across the city, which left a further 350 people injured.

Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has withdrawn from the game, declared on social media that the attacks had left him “speechless”.

Loew said: “We had to get over the shock and we were afraid.

“But we talked about it again on the Sunday and it was clear that the game had to take place. It’s a clear statement about freedom and solidarity.”

Netherlands coach Danny Blind said: “This match is not about team line-ups or systems. What matters now is compassion and unity.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel was due to attend the match along with her cabinet. In London, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William will be among a crowd of around 80,000 at Wembley.

During the anthems the big screens at the famous London stadium will display the words of ‘La Marseillaise’, which were also printed on the back of The Sun and Daily Mirror tabloids.

The Sun instructed readers to “sing for France”.

Friday’s attacks, claimed by Islamic State, touched the France squad particularly closely.

A cousin of France midfielder Lassana Diarra was among those killed, while the sister of forward Antoine Griezmann escaped the assault on the Bataclan concert hall that left 89 people dead.


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