By Chris Rowland.
30 years ago today, Liverpool and Juventus met in the European Cup final in Brussels. It was our fifth European Cup final in nine years, having won the first four.
39 people died in the Heysel Stadium when a wall collapsed following fighting on the terraces. Most of them were Italians and supporters of Juventus but there were also four Belgians, two French and one from Northern Ireland.
30 years later, rival fans still sing ‘Justice for the 39’ and ‘‘Murderers’ to us.
We are still tainted by and taunted for Heysel – the forgotten tragedy.
There was and remains a strong sense that what happened at Heysel is unfinished business. That is something which we and our taunting, niggling rival fans might agree on, albeit for different reasons.
Heysel was and remains out of character, an anomaly in Liverpool’s football culture. Liverpool’s 145th game (and 77th on foreign soil) in over 20 consecutive years of European competition was the first time that Liverpool’s supporters had been involved in any serious violence.
Several critical factors contributed to the disaster. Many mistakes were made, by many agencies and bodies, as well as a few hundred of Liverpool’s followers – and the time bomb was ticking weeks before the game.
The crumbling, roofless terracing at the end of the stadium where the trouble occurred was divided into three sections, X, Y and Z. Liverpool were allocated X and Y. Our tickets had a black blob overprinted over ‘Z’, which we took to mean it would be either either empty or occupied by neutrals, as would be normal practice in England at the time. But it was full of Italian fans, because 5,000 supposedly ‘neutral’ tickets for Block Z had been placed on open sale in Brussels, a city known for having a large Italian community. Large blocks of tickets were bought up by Italian travel agents and ticket touts, and sold to, or sold on to, 39 people who were to die.
Liverpool’s secretary at the time, Peter Robinson, requested that UEFA move the final to a more suitable and safer venue, but his plea was ignored:
‘From day 1 I was concerned about this neutral area. I argued all along that we should have one end and Juventus the other. We suggested there should be a meeting between the two clubs but the Belgian authorities said no. There were serious planning mistakes.’
Juventus has also expressed their concern about the venue.
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