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Lost But Not Forgotten: Heysel 25 Years On

Posted by Andy Golding Saturday, May 29, 2021

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the tragic Heysel stadium disaster a day that still remains in the memories of many.

Venue to the 1985 European Cup Final between Juventus and Liverpool, Heysel Stadium despite being Belgium’s national stadium at the time, was subject to reports of poor maintenance and safety issues even branded as a “dump” from Arsenal fans when the Gunners had played there a few years earlier, clear to suggest that the stadium was nowhere near adequate to host such a big game. Despite appeals to UEFA to change the venue had only fallen upon deaf ears.

Furthermore the seating and ticketing allocations were catalysts for a disaster waiting to happen with more than 25,000 fans each from Juventus and Liverpool, section Z of the stadium which partnered alongside one of the allocated sections for the Liverpool fans was reserved for the neutral Belgian fans, which at the time the country had already established a large Italian community meaning a potential mix of both sets of fans.

At around 7 p.m. local time, an hour before kick-off both sets of fans exchanged a barrage of flares and stones that were picked up from the terraces beneath them, with merely a temporary chain link fencing marked as the boundary added with scarce numbers in security to enforce the divide, attacks from both ends intensified as kick-off approached. A charge from the Liverpool fans had forced their Juvenuts counterparts to retreat as many fans were crushed against a retaining wall with no way out, the wall soon collapsed causing the deaths of thirty-nine supporters, thirty-two of them Italian fans of Juventus, four Belgians, two French and a Northern Irish man with a further six-hundred injured.

Bodies were carried away on sections of iron fencing and laid in piles outside draped with football flags. Juve fans had retaliated however the inexperienced Belgian police struggled to deal with the trouble enduring a two hour long battle between themselves and the Juve fans.

Captains of both teams, Gaetano Scirea and Phil Neal appealed to the fans in order to allow the game to begin amidst fears of further violent recriminations had the game been abandoned. The match finished 1-0 to Juventus with Michel Platini scoring from the penalty spot following a foul on Zbigniew Boniek.

The aftermath proved to be consequentially catastrophic, On May 30th UEFA squarely put the blame on the English fans, the owners of Heysal Stadium and the Belgian police were never investigated for culpability, an official inquiry into the causes of the disaster never took place and within days with pressure from the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher all English clubs had been banned from all competitive European competitions for five years, with Liverpool punished for six. Thatcher stated that “We have to get the game cleaned up from this hooliganism at home and then perhaps we shall be able to go overseas again”.

For the Italians the Heysal disaster had strengthened the Ultra culture at least with Juventus transforming the affects into years of bitterness between themselves and fans of Liverpool F.C. In 2005 Juventus and Liverpool were drawn together in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, the first time the two sides had met since the disaster 20 years prior. Before the first leg at Anfield both Michel Platini and Ian Rush had presented a plaque as a symbol of peace and remembrance, whilst Liverpool fans raised a card-based mural to display the word ‘Amicizia’ - ‘Friendship’ to the sound of You’ll Never Walk Alone, the message and intent from Liverpool couldn’t be clearer.

Although the majority of the visiting Juventus fans applauded this gesture of good will, the Ultras refused to accept instead turning their backs and raised a middle finger in defiance, they clearly hadn’t forgotten nor forgiven, whilst this is understandable even 25 years on the pain and loss remain as raw as if it had happened yesterday, even so in the next 25 years the names of those who lost their lives on that fateful day on 29th May 1985 will never be forgotten.

In Memory:

• Rocco Acerra (29)
• Bruno Balli (50)
• Alfons Bos
• Giancarlo Bruschera (21)
• Andrea Casula (11)
• Giovanni Casula (44)
• Nino Cerullo (24)
• Willy Chielens
• Giuseppina Conto (17)
• Dirk Daenecky
• Dionisio Fabbro (51)
• Jacques François
• Eugenio Gagliano (35)
• Francesco Galli (25)
• Giancarlo Gonnelli (20)
• Alberto Guarini (21)
• Giovacchino Landini (50)
• Roberto Lorentini (31)
• Barbara Lusci (58)
• Franco Martelli (22)
• Loris Messore (28)
• Gianni Mastroiaco (20)
• Sergio Bastino Mazzino (38)
• Luciano Rocco Papaluca (38)
• Luigi Pidone (31)
• Benito Pistolato (50)
• Patrick Radcliffe
• Domenico Ragazzi (44)
• Antonio Ragnanese (49)
• Claude Robert
• Mario Ronchi (43)
• Domenico Russo (28)
• Tarcisio Salvi (49)
• Gianfranco Sarto (47)
• Amedeo Giuseppe Spolaore (55)
• Mario Spanu (41)
• Tarcisio Venturin (23)
• Jean Michel Walla
• Claudio Zavaroni (28)

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1 Responses to Lost But Not Forgotten: Heysel 25 Years On

  1. Jay Scardina Said:
  2. Lets hope that these incidents remain in the past, but not forgotten. Good article.


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