The Power of Sports in the Face of Terrorism


Jacob Wasserman

On Friday November 13, terrorists affiliated with the terror organization, ISIS, carried out multiple attacks, crippling the great city of Paris, and killing 129 innocent tourists and native Parisians. The two most notable attacks took place at a concert hall, the Bataclan, and the country’s national soccer stadium, the Stade de France. Support rained in from around the world for France and its people.

Only four short days later, on November 17th, the French national soccer team went to England, to play a match that meant more than the actual game. Before the match, England coach Roy Hodgson, French coach, Didier Deschamps, and President of English soccer’s governing body, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, laid wreaths of flowers on the field in memory of the victims of the very recent attacks. Also, after English fans made a massive French flag by holding up colored cards, the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, was played. In the days in between the attacks and the match, English fans were advised to learn the words to the French anthem, so when it was played before the match, the rendition would be as effective as possible (the words were displayed on the screen at the stadium as well). To add to the emotion, both teams stood at midfield to observe a minute’s silence, to honor the victims. According to BBC Radio 5 correspondent, Richard Conway, “Following such devastation and grief … football reflected, and remembered and ultimately stood defiant against terrorism”. The pre-match ceremony reminded the world, that terrorism, would not subdue France or its allies.

Whenever terrorism is mentioned, the first thing to come to the mind of most Americans, especially those that live in the New York area, is 9/11. At this point, everybody knows what happened on that unfortunate day, with the attacks, the heroic stories, and the aftermath. Whether or not someone liked him as a President, George W. Bush took part in what is undoubtedly one of the most important events to take place in the United States, in the 21st century. When the 43rd President threw out the first pitch among heightened security at Yankee Stadium one month and nineteen days after the terrorist attacks, he threw a perfect strike, in a bullet-proof vest, causing the New York crowd to erupt in cheers. President Bush went on to say, “Standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium was by far the most nervous moment of my presidency.” The President stood on the mound that day, as an image of strength and normalcy that not only Americans would see, but so too would the terrorists who tried to bring the United States of America to its knees through terrorism, very recently before.

Through the two very tragic events, the power of sports was exhibited to its fullest extent. After two major acts of terrorism, people came together, around sports, to do their best to steel themselves in the face of the tragedies, and, to an extent, return to some sense of normalcy.