Nice head coach Patrick Vieira has paid tribute to the victims of a suspected terrorist attack in the French city that left three dead inside a Catholic church on Thursday.
His side later played Hapoel Be’er Sheva in a Europa League clash, taking the three points thanks to an Amine Gouiri goal.
Although their prospects of reaching the knockout stages of the competitions remain strong after the victory, Vieira admitted that it was not what he and his players had on their minds after a second attack on the city, following the deaths of 87 people during an incident on Bastille Day four years ago.
“Football is obviously secondary tonight,” he tweeted. “But it was important for us to play and to win in order to pay homage to our city, which has once again been touched by drama. Sincere thoughts with the victims, their families and those close to them. We will not forget them.”
Meanwhile, he also spoke of the incident during his press conference.
“Speaking about football is very difficult,” he said. “We think of the families of the victims, of all those citizens of Nice who are suffering and in mourning. Talking about football after the attack is very difficult.”
Nice captain Dante added: “It was a unique, sad context. Of course we spoke about it between ourselves. We had planned not to celebrate the goal too much.
“We are, every one of us in the squad, very touched by this. It has hurt us.
“On behalf of the squad, we send our condolences to the affect families. Football comes as an afterthought, even if it is our job. We were very affected by it and it’s good to end this day with a victory.”
Meanwhile, the prefecture of police revealed that they had planned on cancelling the match only to perform a U-turn.
“We had to show that we are still standing,” president Jean-Pierre Rivere explained. “This match had to take place, not for the football itself, but for the symbolism of it. We cannot get down on the ground. Yes, it’s only a match and people might say: ‘Why are they playing a football match?’ We played it precisely because it was symbolic. Playing it was like saying: ‘We’re still standing.’”