It seems like yesterday for some football fans, a day burned in to the memories of English footballs collective consciousness. The 1980′s saw three major footballing disasters hit English football, The dreadful fire at Bradford City’s title party which claimed the lives of 56 fans on May 11th 1985, 18 days later we then witnessed the horror of live football hooliganism on our TV’s instead of the European Cup final, as 39 fans lost their lives. It still astounds me that Liverpool and Juventus were forced to play the game after the chaos was still echoing around Heysel and of course April 15th 1989, the Hillsborough disaster during the F.A.Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
As a teenager when all 3 events occurred, these are moments that are still so fresh in my mind, placed away in dark corners of my footballing supportingbrain but Hillsborough is an event that is closer than it should have been. I live in Sheffield and every year I take two little bunches of flowers down to Sheffield Wednesdays ground on the anniversary, leaving a bunch by the Memorial and then I take the hardest walk I can through choice down to the Leppings Lane end of the ground which witnessed the dreadful events that day.
I stand around, tears streaming down my face and remember the two good friends I lost that day, my father in law trying his best to help people inside the ground as people lay dying and critically injured all around him. Trying to do his best against insurmountable odds but overwhelmed by the events surrounding him. He had 5 people die in his arms that day, but saved twice as many. I shudder to think that I turned a ticket down that my Liverpool supporting mates had going spare.20 years ago? It seems like yesterday sometimes.
I could have been there, caught up in the middle of chaos. It took me 9 years to go in to the away end of Wednesdays ground and I still don’t like it. Every time Spurs played them I sat with the Wednesday fans, regardless of the stick I took, I simply couldn’t sit there. I was terrified. Suffice to say, I do not miss Sheffield Wednesday being in the Premiership, sorry Wednesday fans.
Regardless of your feelings towards Liverpool, it’s an event that proved a watershed for football around the world, that finally made the authorities and football clubs deal with the crumbling, decaying grounds that we had to put up with in the 1980′s. The Premiership was born that day, but what a price to pay in so many lives lost. It is a day that respect should be shown to Merseyside, not just Liverpool and their fans, but everyone affected in the area by the events.
Yet, here we are, 30 days away from the Quarter Finals of the Champions League and it appears UEFA are still debating if Liverpool should have to play on April 15th. It’s a non starter for me and one of those things about the administration of football that still flabbergasts me by the stupidity of some people involved in the running of the game at the top level. How hard is it to come out and simply make a statement that Liverpool will play either April 14th or the 16th? It’s not rocket science is it but then again, it is UEFA, so I shouldn’t be surprised. It just infuriates me when things like this occur. Call themselves football people? They haven’t a clue.
As happened last season when we saw the 50th anniversary of Munich air disaster and people started having fits when the fixture computer threw out a Manchester Derby for the weekend after. The fact that Manchester City legend Frank Swift was one of the victims of the disaster seemed to be missed by a large amount of media and authorities, fearful that City fans would ruin the day. City’s fans that day were a credit to themselves and the club and regardless of their allegiances, Manchester was a City in mourning after Munich, no matter which side you supported, City or United, Manchester lost a lot on February 6th 1958.
UEFA should come out with something worthwhile for once and assure Liverpool they will not play on April 15th. For the memories of the 96 people that died, the families, friends and witnesses to that day, show us the respect we deserve to mourn our loss, however we see fit that day. Is it too much for us to expect of UEFA to do the right thing for once?