I always associate the Stade de France with happy care free afternoons in winter and summer, preceeded and followed by good food, good wine and good coffee.
What else do you expect ? This is Paris after all.
As the song goes “I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles” and “I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles”
The concrete bowl at Saint-Denis in the Northen suburbs of Paris, provided me with one of the greatest rugby afternoons of my life, when in 1999, in front of 80,500 spectators, Graham Henry’s Wales, threw off the shackles and out played France to win 34-33 in a match that produced seven tries, including a hat trick by Emile Ntamack.
My other memorable visit to the Stade, was during the 1998 FIFA World Cup , when I watched a star studded Italian team beat Austria 2-1 to qualify for the knock out stages, on a warm sunny June afternoon , which was lit up by the likes of Alex Del Piero, Roberto Baggio and Paulo Maldini.
But sadly the tragic events of November 13 2015 added a sickening and unworthy chapter to this stadium’s history.
So it is with a touch of sadness that I return there this weekend, I will pay my respects to all those whose lives were changed for ever on that fateful day, but also I will smile and give thanks that the spirit of our beloved game epitomises all that is good about mankind.
French captain Guilhem Guirado has stated that the team want to make the fans smile after all the difficulties…..
We will all drink to that !