Stadiums on alert as Euro play resumes
PARIS — Fear and trepidation, rather than excitement and thrills, may grip fans when Europe's domestic soccer leagues resume this weekend in the wake of deadly terror attacks in Paris.
Real Madrid against Barcelona would normally be hailed as a tantalizing encounter featuring the world's best attacking talent; while in Turin, Juventus vs. AC Milan is usually a much-talked about clash between Italy's two most storied sides.
Instead, these matches crystalize fears surrounding the weekend's games, with security around stadiums at a maximum in exceptionally somber circumstances.
"You have a bit more of a question of security because it looks like it's not the end of it, in France especially," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is French. "A way for us (to overcome it) is just to get on with life and respond in a positive way to the situation."
But cities, not just teams and stadiums, will be on red alert amid fears of fresh attacks. Instead of being festive, the atmosphere is likely to be watchful. Intense rivalries, such as Spain's clasico, fade in significance, as does whether Barcelona star Lionel Messi returns from injury to face Madrid archrival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, lost two friends in the attacks that killed 129 and summed up the anxious mood.
"It's an attack on our way of lives," Sirigu said. "The fear concerns all of us, not just those of us who have to return to Paris."
Fans have a far greater civic duty than usual. Everyone will be asked to be on their best behavior for fear of causing panic and confusion in others, so flares and pyrotechnic displays — a spectacular sight at many Italian games among their largely self-governing tifosi — are not welcome.
But it's also about clubs reassuring fans with stringent security measures, as John Beattie, the European Stadium & Safety Management Association's president, explains.
"What most clubs should be doing is showing a much more visual deterrent, making things a lot more obvious," Beattie told The Associated Press by telephone. "The public would like to see it more visible, just for more of a confidence factor on their part."
Beattie could not reveal much about extra security measures, although fans being searched twice is one possibility.
"If you tried to do that in a normal sort of climate you'd probably get the fans going 'Oh, why have I got to be searched again?'" Beattie told The AP. "But you tend to hope that their mentality at the present time is 'I want to feel safe, therefore the more safety ... I've got to go through, the better I'm going to feel.'"