In this international break, I planned to write about Euro 2016. But what aspect to write about? What should England’s expectations be? Should the tournament have stayed at a bite size 16 teams rather than the overfilled mouthful that is the 24-team format?
Then what happened on Friday night changed matters, and there could only be one topic of conversation – should the tournament even go ahead, or at least, should France be the hosts?
France is now the country most at risk of terrorism in Europe. If you think London is a boiling pot of ethnicity and tension, try spending a day in Paris. This year, the pot has overflowed not once but twice, with deadly and hideous consequences. Only a fool would think that last Friday will be the end of it.
So does it really make sense to bring 23 other nations into the country – many, like France, who have stated open opposition to ISIS – with players, media, and millions of fans. All of whom could be seen as potential advertising boards for a most depraved of statements.
The group, who have now declared responsibility for the attacks, have shown they will target football. They sent suicide bombers to the Stade de France, where the tournament hosts were playing the world champions, and prime ISIS opponents, Germany.
That may have been because President Holande was there, and the only people the bombers managed to kill was themselves. Yet it shows how these people will go for the big stage, target the entertainment we prize most. ISIS have shown themselves to be stagers, show-offs. They would like nothing more than to blow up a stadium full of western football fans, and playing Euro 2016 in France could give them that chance.
Of course, a strong argument is that pulling hosting rights from France would let the terrorists win. That’s why the friendly against France at Wembley is going ahead – to show support, solidarity, that the beautiful game will not be sullied by extremists.
I think playing that friendly is the right decision, but playing a month long tournament – in the country savaged by attacks, not the one over the channel – is different, and will require so much more security to make people feel safe.
It’s all very well saying “we can’t let them win”. This is not Call of Duty, it is not a Hollywood movie. This is very much real life, real lives have been lost and will inevitably be lost to ISIS. Trying to keep people safe is priority one. Football, for once, is priority two.
But where could the tournament be held? The only nations that could step in at such late notice – England, Germany, Italy, Spain – are all big western nations, the same targets. No use presenting a moving target, complete with a logistical nightmare.
France will, most likely, keep the Euros. It, probably, will all go without a hitch.
In the end, football may not be as valuable as life. It just makes it a whole lot more bearable.