Berlin: A football match in Germany that had been hailed as a “symbol of freedom” after the Paris attacks and was to be attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel was called off for security reasons today, police said.
Thousands of fans were evacuated, without signs of panic, from Hanover’s 49,000-capacity HDI Arena, where the German national side had been due to play a friendly against the Netherlands.
The German team was playing France last Friday when players and fans were shaken by the blasts of jihadist suicide bombers outside the venue that echoed through the Stade de France.
Head coach Joachim Loew had called the planned match “a clear message and symbol of freedom and a demonstration of compassion, as well as sorrow, for our French friends — not only in France, but throughout the world”.
Before the match, players were practising the French anthem “La Marseillaise”, which they had been set to sing in a sign of solidarity with the shaken nation.
The victims of the Paris attacks — which claimed at least 129 lives with more than 350 injured — were set to be honoured by candlelight in what has been described as “a friendly in the true sense of the word”.
The German Football Association (DFB) had at the weekend already come close to calling off the match, while Belgium have cancelled their friendly against Spain today.
“We want to take this opportunity to use light as a sign of sympathy to the world,” the chairman of the Friends of Hanover, Roger Cericius, had told the Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper.
Germany are still coming to terms with what they experienced last Friday during their international against France.
After the blasts, the Germans spent the night in the Stade de France changing room, as it was still considered too dangerous to cross Paris, before flying home early the next morning.
“There was a lot of fear and anxiety in the dressing room that night. We were afraid,” said Loew, who revealed the players had asked to leave as soon as the match was over.