‘A person next to me moved, and they shot him’: Griezmann’s sister recalls Bataclan attack

‘I don’t think about football with what happened. I try not to think about it at all’

Spectators wait on the pitch during the International Friendly game between France and Germany at Stade de France last November. Photograph: Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

Spectators wait on the pitch during the International Friendly game between France and Germany at Stade de France last November. Photograph: Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images


Maud Griezmann walked into the concert hall and looked around. It was a little before 9pm on November 13th at the Bataclan in Paris, and she admired the grand stage. She looked at the growing crowd. She watched, for a few moments, as a man at the souvenir stand sorted T-shirts and posters and CDs for the band Eagles of Death Metal, which was just about to begin its set.

Then Ms Griezmann looked quickly at her phone. Her brother Antoine Griezmann is a star forward for France’s national soccer team, and he was playing that night at the Stade de France, just outside the city limits. It was an exhibition match against Germany. The game and the concert were scheduled to start around the same time. Ms Griezmann put her phone away. She wanted to listen to the music.

Because of that, she did not see on Twitter or Facebook that her brother, like many of the other players in the game, was jolted by the unmistakable sound of an explosion outside the stadium about 9.20pm. She did not know that two suicide bombers had blown themselves up near the match. She did not know that associates of those terrorists had sprayed bullets at restaurants in downtown Paris. She did not know that President François Hollande of France had been taken away from the stadium in a helicopter amid fears that Paris was under siege.

She only knew that, about 40 minutes after Eagles of Death Metal began to play — mostly rock, not heavy metal despite the band’s name — a patter of loud pops could suddenly be heard over the music. It was not clear what has happening. “At first we thought it was a prank, a joke,” Ms Griezmann said Tuesday, speaking at length about her experience for the first time. “We thought it was part of the concert. But then we heard the screams.”

She and her boyfriend, Simon Degoul, were pushed toward the front right corner of the room, by the edge of the stage, as three terrorists stormed into the hall with assault rifles and grenades. Ms Griezmann and Mr Degoul, like so many people around them, dropped to the ground in an attempt to avoid the bullets. A woman fell between them.

The floor was hard against Ms Griezmann’s cheek. She pressed her face down, forcing herself to avoid looking at what was happening all around her. “If you moved, you were shot,” she said. “A person next to me moved, and they shot him. They just shot him, and I heard him land.”

She does not remember any distinguishing characteristics about the woman next to her. Blond or brunette, tall or short — nothing. She does not know her name or how old she was. She only remembers the woman’s hands. Ms Griezmann held one of them; Mr Degoul held the other. As the terrorists killed people on the mezzanine and in the concert pit below, Ms Griezmann and Mr Degoul and the woman buried their faces and shut their eyes and held their bodies as still as possible except for the tiniest movements of the hands they clasped.

The movements traveled in a chain. Ms Griezmann would begin with a squeeze to one hand, and the woman would pass the squeeze up the line to Mr Degoul before he would send it back down toward Ms Griezmann. They did this — squeeze after squeeze after squeeze — for 90 minutes. They did it in fear of what it would mean if the message they were sending each other stopped.

“It was the only way we could tell each other we were still alive,” Ms. Griezmann said.

Ms Griezmann smiles a lot. She is 28. She has hair that is dyed red, with small waves in it. She laughs and grins and talks animatedly about her family and her travels and her tattoos, which include Antoine Griezmann’s date of birth; the name of her other brother, Theo; and, in a recent addition to the upper part of her right arm and still wrapped in protective plastic, a homage to the television show “Twin Peaks.”

Sitting at a cafe here in the center of the town where she and her brothers grew up, Ms Griezmann became brusque only when it was suggested that this week might stir unique emotions for her or her family, particularly with France playing in a European Championships semifinal against Germany on Thursday night in Marseille. This will be the first time France has played Germany since the November 13th attacks that killed 130 people, about 90 at the Bataclan.

“It is an important game for Antoine, for the team, for the fans,” Ms Griezmann said. “But it is not something other than that. I don’t think about football with what happened. I try not to think about it at all.”

Second Captains

She knows, though, that is impossible. In the eight months since the attacks, she has not seen a therapist, she said, adding that “family and life is my therapy.” She has talked about her experience at length with Antoine only once — about a week after the attacks in Madrid, where he lives and plays for Atlético — after which they both decided it was best to move on.

But that does not mean Ms Griezmann will not open up. To the contrary, once she begins to speak, the recollections come flowing out.

Her memories of the night, like those of many people who have been involved in traumatic events, are a mix of necessarily hazy and glaringly sharp. She does not remember how many attackers there were or where they were standing or everything they shouted. She does remember, oddly, feeling more frightened when there were long periods of silence instead of the racket of gunfire. She remembers kicking off her shoes, Dr. Martens, so she could run faster. She remembers sprinting for the door when the police finally came in and seeing, so clearly, the man she had watched sorting items at the souvenir stand lying motionless on the ground.

She remembers waiting in a courtyard about 200 yards from the Bataclan with other survivors while the police continued their operation. She remembers calling her mother from Mr Degoul’s cellphone and shouting, “I’m out! I’m out!” over and over because she couldn’t think of what else to say. She remembers walking, 10 or 15 minutes in her bare feet at 2 am, to Place de la Republique, where she and Mr Degoul found a taxi, only to have to plead with the driver to take them home.

“I had blood all over my clothes,” she said, shaking her head. “He was worried about his seats.”

Shaken by Noises

In January, about two months after the Paris attacks, Ms Griezmann began working with Antoine as his publicity strategist. She has a degree in public relations, and as her brother’s stardom grew because of his play with Atlético, which reached the Champions League final in May, and with the national team, she wanted to help guide him toward the right partners, the right relationships.

She knows that some people say it is not a good idea to mix business and family, but she says she is not worried. She and Antoine have always been close and have always had a special relationship. Growing up here, in the Gautriats neighborhood of Macôn, about an hour north of Lyon, she watched Antoine, who is three years younger, kick his soccer ball, over and over, against the blue garage door of their house.

“My parents did not always like this,” she said.

She was Antoine’s goalkeeper when he wanted to practice shooting, and she encouraged him when he grew frustrated about his slight build and his shorter-than-average height, an attribute that most acknowledge is the primary reason high-level French clubs were not interested in scouting him.

Even now, as he has become a central cog in the French team at the Euros (he has scored four of the team’s 11 goals), Ms Griezmann still mostly thinks of him only as her little brother. When they visited New York a few years ago, just the two of them, they made a YouTube video of their giddy antics that featured encounters with Times Square’s Naked Cowboy and Antoine dancing on his hotel bed.

Although Ms Griezmann lives in Paris and Antoine lives in Madrid, she still comes here quite often to visit her parents, who also are reveling in their son’s rise. A longtime family friend, Patrick Montero, said about 3,000 residents of the town will wear Antoine Griezmann masks and jerseys when they watch Thursday’s game at the city’s exhibition center.

“It is an amazing time for Antoine now,” Ms Griezmann said. “It is an amazing time for all of us.”

She and her family will be at the game Thursday and, she added quickly, at the tournament final on Sunday, too, “since France will win.” That match is at the Stade de France, but she has no concerns about what going to a game there — or anywhere — might do to her psychologically.

While French soccer and the attacks are, for many, still intertwined, Ms Griezmann said she makes no connection between them. Most days, she said, are normal. She acknowledges what happened to her — she got a tattoo of the lead singer from the Eagles of Death Metal crying and hugging the Eiffel Tower — but is not shaken by overt confrontations with it.

Rather, it is the subtle things that poke at her, the little moments that twist her stomach. Since she did not see much of what happened that night, it is actually sounds, not images, that shake her.

Sudden shouts. Screams from out of nowhere. And, perhaps most of all, sounds of feet moving.

A few weeks after the attacks, she was in the grocery store shopping when a little boy behind her in the aisle suddenly started to run in the other direction. He was chasing his mother, perhaps, or just doing what boys do, but Ms Griezmann stopped short.

“I heard it — the running,” she said. “I thought people were being taken hostage in the store.”

She paused.

“I don’t know when that will stop,” she said. “I don’t know if it will.”

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