Tuesday’s terrorist attacks against Brussels, or perhaps better interpreted as what Brussels, as the seat of the European institutions, represents, once again leaves us feeling bewildered. Such are the shock waves from this latest attack that France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazenueve, spoke yesterday of the threat facing the European Championship this summer. A short while ago the French ambassador paid AS a visit. It was an agreeable meeting, during which he relayed the impression that the French government was assured in its belief that the tournament would be held in perfectly normal conditions. That was his message. The minister’s words now are less optimistic.
Some people may think that worrying about a football tournament under the current circumstances is frivolous, but they would be mistaken. In the first instance, football forms a part of our world, the same world that this enemy wishes to attack. Football has a symbolic character that only retarded minds can deny. Secondly, it offers a vulnerable target. Football leads to mass movements of people that are difficult to keep an eye on. Even more so in the fan zones, an excellent initiative to bring together fans from different countries. Densely packed gatherings open to the intent of any suicide bomber.
Belgium on Tuesday suffered the blow of terrorism and because of that deserves the highest level of solidarity. But we should not let that obscure a truth, however painful it is: the increase in the presence of security forces in Belgium, with the attendant confusion in the transfer of information, has permitted fatal focal point to flourish in the Molenbeek neighbourhood. That was why November’s scheduled friendly between Belgium and Spain was cancelled. That is why Salah Abdeslam was able to remain undetected there after the Paris attacks. That is why the game between Belgium and Portugal next Tuesday may not go ahead. Football is under the spotlight for many reasons. And France has a very delicate frontier.