The horrific acts of terror (murder) in Paris that claimed 130 innocent lives is sending ripples throughout Europe. Less than 72 hours after the initial attacks, French police stormed the Parisian suburb of St. Denis, killing 3 confirmed conspirators, while arresting 7 more suspects. France's northeast neighbors, Belgium, have also been thrust into high alert. Intelligence states that Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, a neighborhood in the western section of Brussels, had residents who played a direct role in the planning and execution of events on November 13th. Just last night, 21 people were detained throughout Belgium. In addition, the glorious pubs, restaurants, and Christmas Market of the capital city have been shutdown, along with its subways and schools.
La Marseillaise was played before Tottenham's home match against West Ham, and reports have stated that Hugo Lloris, a French national, has been hit particularly hard by the recent tragedies. Yet Hugo is not the only Spurs player to be afflicted by the Paris attacks. Belgian center-back Toby Alderweireld revealed that he has family fighting for his country's public safety.
"It is not as bad as it was for the French people, but in Brussels there are a lot of problems so, of course, it affects you, especially as my brother is a police officer.
"He doesn't talk a lot about it but sometimes he has been working in different places from where he normally works. All his free days have been cancelled and he is working every day. He has to do his daily job like the rest of us."
It is hard to conceptualize the amount of stress weighing down on the average French or Belgian citizen right now, but amplify it exponentially for the police. Images and videos coming from Brussels right now make the city to appear more like an occupied ghost town, rather than the Belgium and European capital during the tourist heavy holiday season. Police and military alike are armed to the teeth, and as Toby alluded too, are working around the clock to provide protection. Recent reports state that Brussels will be under partial lock down through next Monday at least. It is a trying time for Alderweireld family indeed.
"My family are in Antwerp, which is 28 miles from Brussels, so it's not a good situation and hopefully it is over quickly. You think about it, it's always in the news, everyone talks about it. We have talked about it in the Tottenham squad, of course."
"All the Belgian players talk about it, the English guys are reading about it as well and want to know what is happening. I try to focus on football and hope these kind of things do not happen anymore. Let's hope it settles quickly."
The world is fighting an ideology that thrives on the uneducated, the poor, and the alienated. What makes this dilemma so difficult is that not only is it a battle against a borderless idea, but that a successful attack is not incredibly expensive to carry out. Further, these attacks grab the most attention when they are in high density, high profile areas. What is more global than world football? Football stadiums are perfect targets and, sadly, lunatics will attempt to disrupt them again.
Yet there is beauty in immersing oneself in the game now more than ever. And I don't mean in a social anesthetic kind of way. Football is secular, diverse, and egalitarian. Find me a sport where one can witness the equivalent of Luton Town knocking off Newcastle in an FA Cup fixture or Sparta Prague getting the better of Napoli in an Europa League contest. It is a game of creativity, imagination, and free expression; superseding other contemporary sports in these ideals. It is also consummately English and French, Spanish and Belgian, Saudi and Brazilian. Supporting one's club with the same, sometimes incomprehensible, fervor is the best antidote to the fears and uncertainty present in our world. Focus on the football is correct adage. Hail the players with the strength to put their heads down and perform, the families of those lost, and the character and perseverance of those who will once again venture to the cafés, bistros, brasseries, and yes, football stadiums in the coming months ahead.