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Playing La Marseillaise Ahead Of Premier League Games Is Grief Porn At Its Worst

Playing La Marseillaise Ahead Of Premier League Games Is Grief Porn At Its Worst
By Donny Mahoney Updated

The Premier League makes its triumphant return to our lives tomorrow, though not before the French national anthem will be played at every Premier League ground.

National anthems have no natural place at club football games in England, which is why the move seems so strange. Although its games takes place in armpit places like Leicester and Stoke, the Premier League is the closest humanity gets to a global sports league. And with that in mind, the blazers who run the Premier League felt the need to make a gesture of solidarity with the people of France on the behalf of all mankind.

It's a heartfelt gesture, but it is also a vacant, meaningless one. If football insists on allowing the tragic, confusing events of the real world onto the football pitch, it already has a perfectly sufficient (if imperfect) means to mourn: a minute's silence or a minute's applause. However rollicking Le Marseillaise may be, it is a political song in a foreign language. By playing, the Premier League is tactily taking sides in a very complicated geopolitical situation.

The attacks on Paris a week ago were shocking. A concert and an international football match were targeted deliberately. The aftermath was confusing. Many gestures of grief and solidarity were made that were completely over the top. I know because I tweeted from the Balls account that the La Marseillaise should be played at the Aviva Monday night. I tweeted it at an emotive point but having been at the Aviva for the Bosnia game, I realise now that it would have been profoundly weird to hear the French anthem played. The minute's silence was an entirely appropriate gesture, even if a few Bosnian supporters ruined it.

Many people have spoken about how everything has changed after these attacks but when one looks back on just the last 15 years, an endless litany of terrible events unfolds. The only thing that has changed is that we now have of an echo chamber of opinion called social media. With it comes what feels like a competition to express grief.

La Marseillaise is a brilliant song with a long history that gets the blood boiling but it's worth reflecting on its words, particularly at the end of the first verse:

Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

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There is no excusing what happened in Paris, but it is hard to see how the French anthem will provide any added profundity for either French players in the league, or fans in general.

La Marseillaise was given precedence at Wembley Tuesday night. The anthems were tasteful and worthy. It made sense. National anthems before club matches don't. Playing it before Premier League games this weekend is football's version of retweeting #prayforparis. It is a statement of decency but is also utterly meaningless. Now Serie A have promised to do the same this weekend.

Sometimes silence is the best means to honour tragedy in all its complexity.

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