I still remember vividly the horrible images on TV as I tuned in to watch my beloved Liverpool take on Juventus in the European Cup final on the 29th May 1985.
Many friends and members of my family supported Juventus, so you can imagine my anticipation for this game. As I was waiting for the game to start the RAI (Italian TV) announcer started to explain what was going on and why the match had been delayed. “Some Liverpool fans had rushed into the side where the Juventus supporters were and a wall has collapsed, there are some injured Juve fans” he explained. Suddenly his voice changed and said “There are reports of some dead”. At that moment I knew that this was very serious and although I wanted the game to proceed it was obvious that things were going to be different. The game did eventually proceed as there were fears of rioting had it been cancelled. Juve won the game and claimed their first European Cup, the next day we heard that the number of dead was 39.
“How can you keep supporting a team with such barbarians?” was the question many within my family asked. While I was disgusted with the behaviour of such fans I kept my head up high and was still proud to be a Liverpool supporter.
During the 70’s and 80’s hooliganism was often referred to as the ‘British disease’. In the 70’s, Manchester United fans created havoc across the country when their hooligan firm “The Red Army” turned every ground they visited into a battle zone. A Bolton fan stabbed a Blackpool fan to death in 1974, Leeds served a two year ban from European football after their fans rioted during the 1975 European Cup final. A few months before Heysel a large riot erupted in the FA Cup quarter final between Milwall and Luton. Just a couple of weeks before the tragedy in Brussels a 14 year old died at St. Andrews when police pushed the crowd back towards a wall. Many of the hooligans did not care about football but simply hated authority and joined the football bandwagon as it provided them with an opportunity to create mayhem. In 1984 Roma fans attacked some Liverpool supporters during the European Cup Final in Rome so there was also a sense of revenge in the air.
Unfortunately there are many (Man Utd and Everton Supporters especially) who use the Heysel tragedy in order to justify (in their minds) the reason why they lack European silverware. What are they achieving by calling Liverpool supporters (who most were not even born in 1985) murderers? Unlike Hillsborough, justice was served after Heysel and the guilty ones served their time. So why are all the other Liverpool supporters blamed? Do we go around calling the young Germans murderers because of what happened in the holocaust? Of course not, so these chants of “murderers” must stop and the dead must be respected.
Some accuse us of brushing Heysel aside and ignoring it, no that is not true and this article is evidence of that. Also evidence has been how the club has reached out to Juventus over the years. If there is someone who brushed the tragedy aside it was the The Belgian authorities who later renamed the stadium to “King Baudouin Stadium”.
Below is a video of the tragedy, our thoughts are prayers are with the families and friends of the victims,
In Memoria e Amicizia