Heysel: In Memoriam (3 Viewers)

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Apr 22, 2003
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#1
I realised that we don't even have a thread to commemorate the victims of the Heysel tragedy. For obvious reasons, I think that would be proper at this time.

No Liverpool bashing, no arguments, no finger-pointing.

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The horror of Heysel scarred in the mind
Liverpool meet Juventus on Tuesday for the first time since one of the sport's greatest tragedies 20 years ago. For one grieving Italian the memory is painfully fresh

The spring of 1985 also happened to be the springtime of Alberto Guarini's life. His 21st birthday was weeks away, he had just won the local mixed doubles tennis championship with his sister Paola and he was deeply in love with his girlfriend Stefania - they were contemplating marriage - whom he had followed to university at Bari. There he had studied dentistry and just passed his exams. And to cap it all, his beloved heroes, the mighty Juventus, were in the European Cup final to face the great Liverpool, whom Alberto esteemed and admired.

Alberto's father, Bruno, had promised him a gift - any gift - as reward for passing the exams and in Alberto's mind there was no doubt: he and his father would travel together from their little town of Mesagne in Puglia, southern Italy, to Brussels for the game.

That fateful day would be the last of Alberto's life - and that of 38 others not unlike him, some younger, mostly older. The third, lethal, charge by mobs of drunken Liverpool supporters across the terracing at Heysel Stadium into the terrified, fleeing Italians, trapped Alberto and his father against a terrace barrier close to the wall at the edge of the stand.

"When the English came running at us, Alberto was caught," Bruno Guarini remembers. "He shouted at me: 'I don't know whether to go under or over it.' I shouted back for him to go under. His last words were, 'Papa, mi stanno schiaccando' - daddy, they're crushing me. I remember it all, like a film right up to the last moment, when the film stops and I don't see it any more. At night, though, I awake suddenly and I see it again."

The film stops because Bruno Guarini, badly injured, lost consciousness. When he came to, he says: "The Red Cross had arrived. I was bruised all over black and blue. I insisted to them that I look for Alberto before going with them and eventually I found him - dead. The Red Cross wanted to take me away but I could not leave his side. I simply put his identity card in his pocket, then they took me to hospital. We had flown to Brussels together singing on the plane. And I flew back with the body of my son."

It is strange, on the eve of next Tuesday's surreal and emotive fixture at Anfield, to walk the streets of Mesagne's lovely baroque historic centre with Bruno and to recall that I myself had seen - in panorama though not in detail - the death of his son and 38 others in the fated Z block at Heysel. I was close to the halfway line, above the slaughter. This was the stand for which Guarini had requested - and been promised - tickets, in which he and his son would have been safe, until the allocation was switched at the last moment by the travel agency which flew them from Brindisi.

Strange to recall the nightmare of that day and night: the carpet of broken beer bottles and cans in the centre of Brussels and around the stadium; those three charges into the small group of Italian fans, whose main contingent was at the other end of the ground - the third across open terracing into the fleeing crowd - and the fateful collapse of the wall, bodies tumbling down and the whooping and war dancing that followed among the English.

I first met Bruno Guarini 15 years ago. At that time, five years after his death, nothing had changed in Alberto's room. By his bed lay a Juventus magazine; in a cupboard hung his clothes and the Juventus shoulder bag in which he had taken a packed lunch to Brussels that day, and which returned with his body.

Now that part of the Guarinis' house is largely closed up but Alberto's trophies remain, a row of them, for the tennis and football tournaments in which he had been so successful. The walls of the bedroom are now lined with photographs - of his smile, his hopes and handsome youth.

"They say that time passes and heals," reflects Guarini now. "But time does nothing. It all remains before my eyes as though it were yesterday. I can see the look in his eyes, I can hear his voice. For the rest of you, for the fans even, time passes. But for a father who lost his son it all stays locked under my skin and never heals."

What has changed is that Alberto's sister Paola has married, lives next door and has given birth to a son, Gabriele, now two years old. "He is my joy," says his grandfather. A little Alberto? "Of course."

As for Tuesday's game, Guarini has decided to watch it. "I will do so for Alberto. I'm going to imagine him sitting by my side. It's the way he would have wanted it."

Mesagne is typical of the towns across central and southern Italy from which those in Z block largely came - those unable to get tickets for the Juventus end of the stadium. Not a wealthy place by any means, it lies on a low plain of deep red soil which stretches back inland from the port of Brindisi on Italy's "heel". Many inhabitants work the land around; its few factories package olives and artichokes and process tomatoes into pasta sauce.

Here Bruno Guarini grew up as a fanatical Juventus fan, a zeal inherited by his son. Bruno worked as a representative for the pharmaceutical industry, Alberto opted for dentistry while Paola trained as a pharmacist. Paola was instructed on May 29, 1985 to ensure a video recording of the match in Brussels.

Alberto could not have been more excited. He had called repeatedly from Bari to ensure that his father had secured good seats. "And of course Alberto knew Liverpool," says Guarini. "They were famous, a wonderful team, and we presumed the fans were like us, just crazy about football." Alberto knew England, he had been on three English language courses, twice in London, and had been happy there.

His mother Lucia, however, was nervous about the trip to Brussels as she had been during Alberto's studies, "not because of the hooligans, just because it was so far away".

Bruno and Alberto took the plane: "It was like a festival, flags and singing." Paola set the tape and switched on the television. Then came reports of trouble in the crowd; Lucia switched it off.

"We arrived early at the stadium and saw the English drunk out of their minds, bare torsos in the heat," says Guarini. "I said to Alberto, 'We'll go far away from them near the wall'. It was the worst decision because those close to the English were the ones to escape.

"Yes," he says. "I know all the excuses. It was a terrible stadium and I cannot believe that Uefa could choose it for a final between the two biggest teams in Europe, each with thousands of fans. I also cannot believe we were allowed to buy tickets in the same end as the English when our people - and there are some bad ones among them too - were at the other end. And the police: they were non-existent. There was no protection, no line to separate the fans.

"But does any of this justify what happened? Does this justify killing people? They call this a 'tragedy' like an earthquake or natural disaster but it wasn't a tragedy, as we say, it was a carnage."

"It was," says Lucia quietly, "the hand of man."

"For 50 years," says Guarini, "I'd thought of England as a civilised country. A civilised people. But what shocks me is that we've heard nothing from Liverpool or its supporters, no apology or solidarity, nothing to say they did anything wrong."

Whatever the sentiment may or may not be on Merseyside now - especially in the wake of the horror at Hillsborough - Alberto's memory lives on in Mesagne. There is an Alberto Guarini foundation managed by Guarini's best friend, a banker, Gino Sconosciuto, which for many years sponsored a dentistry place at Bari University for a local student otherwise financially incapable of taking it. Recently the foundation has switched to fund a post at Lecce University to take part in research into excavations beneath Mesagne, which illuminate the history of the pre-Roman Messapi people who populated the region from the 18th century BC.

Moreover the tennis court on which Alberto and his sister used to play is now called the "Campo Alberto Guarini" and each year in Mesagne the foundation organises a tennis and football tournament with trophies bearing Alberto's name.

The cemetery in Mesagne lies adjacent to the town centre. Here family tombs are arranged like miniature buildings along a grid of little streets. That of the Guarini family is of stone, lined inside with white marble. Alberto's grave is below that of his grandparents, both of whom outlived him. On it is a photograph, the last of him to be taken, by his girlfriend Stefania, his arms folded, smiling from the marble. Below it is the Greek letter Alpha next to his birthdate and Omega next to the date 29.5.85.

"This is my second home," says Guarini, pointing to the plot beneath Alberto's "which awaits me."

Flowers are replaced here twice a week. Guarini contemplates his son's picture with eyes that change in a flicker from animation to a distant, heartbroken stare. Outside, drops of heavy rain clunk against the ironwork.

Fifteen years ago Guarini had drilled his forefingers into his temples and said: "Heysel, that world will drive me mad." Now, here, he reflects: "I think all the time, if only I had given him some other gift. If only the plane had not taken off because of the weather. If only..." And he repeats: "For a father to have his son and watch him die is the greatest sorrow. But to lose your son in that way, killed by those people, is beyond sorrow. It is something time cannot cure, not even 20 years, it leaves you dead in your heart."
 
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Apr 22, 2003
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#2
'We should have refused to play final'

Players were totally numb before kick-off, says Lawrenson

The fated 1985 European Cup final should not have gone ahead out of respect for those who died in rioting before kick-off, according to Mark Lawrenson, a senior member of the Liverpool side that night.

Lawrenson, who has rarely spoken publicly about events at the Heysel Stadium, said the Liverpool squad were shocked when they were told the game had to go ahead, and with hindsight should have refused.

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Police chiefs, incapable of restoring order, insisted that despite the loss of life the violence would escalate if the match was cancelled.

"At the time we were sitting in the dressing room totally numb because we couldn't put together the idea of people dying and a game of football," he said. "We had heard some people had died and we knew there was trouble because a few of us had been out to look what was going on, but we did not know the scale. When the chief of police came in and said you've got to play we couldn't believe it.

"He said he'd been in the Juventus dressing room and explained that if we didn't play there would be more trouble, so that sort of made sense. Even so it was one of those occasions when with hindsight we should have said no. What could they have done, made us play?"

After 20 years in which he has never discussed Heysel with his former team-mates, even with his friend Alan Hansen, Lawrenson has contributed to an in-depth BBC documentary about Heysel, to be screened on BBC2 on April 17.

"I wanted to speak about it now...because we have never discussed it as a group of former players, and I was interested in finding out how I felt about it all these years on. Even now I feel numb.

"Until recently I have never seen any footage of the game or anything. I couldn't tell you how long kick-off was delayed and I recall very little of the game."

Despite his regrets about the fateful night Lawrenson is convinced that Tuesday night's match will be a great occasion.

"It will be a special night for football reasons and for emotional reasons. Of the two clubs I think Juventus have been absolutely marvellous given what happened to their supporters.

"I'm not sure what Liverpool have in store, but I am certain that however many Juventus fans make the trip, they will be treated to the greatest welcome they have ever had in a football stadium."

Gerhard Aigner, the former Uefa chief executive who was head of the competitions department in 1985, was at the meeting at which the decision to play the game was taken.

Aigner says the senior figures in European football were complicit in the decision. Such was the breakdown in organisation that two dazed supporters were in the room when the decision was made.

"We had an emergency meeting with representatives of the clubs and both associations, the Belgian football representatives, Uefa president, Uefa general-secretary and myself, the lord mayor, the ambassadors of the two countries and the head of police and of the gendarmerie. The police said they couldn't evacuate the stadium, so they were more or less forced to play. That was when we were asked to go out and speak to both teams."

Aigner believes the disaster was exacerbated by the failure of the Belgian authorities.

"At that time...Uefa was not very much involved apart from setting up an organising capital [final venue]. It was still a time when the police wouldn't really have a contact with us, or really wish the football authorities to interfere. They had the attitude in general that they knew what they had to do.

"Afterwards Uefa found out there was a split - one part was the national police, or gendarmerie, and the other part was the Brussels police and they didn't have a joint command, which proved to be catastrophic. They didn't have enough police in the stadium and some police did not have batteries in their walkie-talkies.

"We could see this thing was escalating but there was no communication between these forces, there was no communication between the two groups at the stadium and no communication back into the headquarters.

"It was quite unbelievable, the findings about the gaps and inefficiency of the police forces."
 
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Apr 22, 2003
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Liverpool still torn over night that shamed their name

Anfield remains almost mute on the subject of the Heysel disaster

Liverpool are a club touched by tragedy. Approach Anfield from any direction and you are immediately - and properly - confronted by Hillsborough. At the Shankly Gates an eternal flame burns inside the Hillsborough memorial, a red marble wall bearing the names of the 96 dead and adorned with fresh flowers laid by the bereaved and the outraged alike. On the other side of the ground a shop front bears the name of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, a group still fighting for those responsible for pointless, preventable deaths to be brought to account.

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Fittingly the events of April 15 1989 have been taken to the heart of the club's identity as much as any of the on-field triumphs of the 70s and 80s. The same cannot be said of the other tragedy in Liverpool's recent history, however; bridges may have been built between the boardrooms at Liverpool and Juventus, but you have to search harder to find a public reference to Heysel at Anfield.

Inside the club museum, displayed on a wall around the corner from four replica European Cups and in earshot of a recording of the Kop chorusing You'll Never Walk Alone, is a marble plaque 18 inches square that reads: "In Memoriam: In memory of those who died at the Heysel Stadium, Brussels." Next to it is Kenny Dalglish's shirt from that night, a match programme, and the Juventus pennant Michel Platini handed to Phil Neal before the 1985 European Cup final eventually kicked off yards from where paramedics were counting the dead.

It was a tragedy for which many were culpable, but 20 years on, as the clubs prepare to meet for the first time since that night in Brussels, Liverpool and their supporters are still struggling to come to terms with their part in the disaster.

It is not hard to grasp why. At Hillsborough, Liverpool were unquestionably the victims of gross, lethal negligence by the authorities, a truth established only after a courageous, dignified struggle by the families of the dead. Hugely painful though it may be, that is easier to come to terms with than acknowledging even the smallest culpability for the earlier disaster.

John Williams, a sociologist at the Norman Chester Centre for Football Research and an Anfield season-ticket holder, believes attitudes to Heysel stem from a deep sense of shame, and are bound up with Hillsborough.

"The club and certainly its supporters feel ashamed of what happened, because quite quickly after the events we were beginning to look for ways of explaining it that did not concern us," he says.

"Stories of supporters from other clubs and political groups infiltrating the group emerged, and these were followed by the maladministration of Uefa, the poor quality of the stadium and the cowardice of police. All of these have important elements of truth in them but they were also ways of avoiding responsibility.

"Had Hillsborough not happened we may have dealt with it, but there has been a feeling that we just need to forget Heysel and hope it went away. That was always dangerous."

Attitudes to Heysel remain equivocal on Merseyside, in part because the events were never subject to detailed scrutiny. There has never been an extensive inquiry, perhaps conveniently given the chaos and inadequacy of the police response on that night. Debate over the details continues. Many accounts, including the club's version on its website, cite missile throwing by Italian fans as the spark for violence, a claim contested by other eye-witnesses, but the broad facts are uncontested.

Uefa selected a dilapidated venue for the 1985 final and allocated block Z at the predominantly Liverpool end to "neutral" fans. These tickets were sold to Italian immigrants and Belgians, who were separated from their rivals by a chicken-wire fence and a line of reluctant, inexperienced police. Liverpool fans breached the fence and charged. Juventus supporters retreated until they were forced against a retaining wall that collapsed, killing 38 Italians and a Belgian. There followed the most shocking scenes witnessed even in the dark days of the 80s, as Liverpool fans rampaged, Juve's supporters who had breached their end retaliated, and the overwhelmed police struggled to regain order.

Nicholas Allt watched the tragedy unfold from on top of the wall at the back of block Z. Now 43, he spent his youth following Liverpool's great European adventure largely for free, thanks to his skilful evasion of the authorities.

He has chronicled the eight-year party that saw Liverpool collect four European Cups in Boys from the Mersey, a book, he says, which is the most shoplifted in Waterstones' Liverpool branch.

Allt's account depicts Liverpool's travelling army as scallies not sadists, supporting themselves through petty theft and blagging, and resorting to violence only when provoked. That was the case at Heysel, he says, dismissing stories that non-Liverpool fans infiltrated the support.

"I had never seen such a shambles as Heysel," he says. "Whoever decided to put Juve fans in with Liverpool has obviously never been to a football match before.

"The stadium was crumbling - I went in and out four times through holes in the wall. The turnstiles had been abandoned and you didn't even need a ticket, and there was rubble lying around everywhere.

"It was all right at first. We had a great party during the day, but there was a bit of taunting, a few missiles thrown, and then the Italian fans started spitting. Now in northern Europe that's the lowest of the low, and only a coward is going to run away from that. That's when the charge started. It was tragic really, because the people who died were not the ones doing the spitting, but the innocent people at the back. They were all innocent."

"If we had been two gangs in a nightclub, and one started a fight and the other chased them and the stairs collapsed, people would blame the greedy nightclub owner for not having a safe venue. That's what happened at Heysel."

For Allt, Heysel marked the end of an era. A six-year European ban for Liverpool followed, and before it was over Hillsborough triggered the introduction of all-seat stadiums.

"As soon as we got to Ostend and saw the reporters waiting we realised the party was over," Allt says. "But it wasn't until after Hillsborough that I realised quite what had happened at Heysel. I was a bit older, and it's when it happens to your own that you realise what the Italians had gone through."

He says of Tuesday: "Liverpool is a sentimental city, too sentimental sometimes, and I'm not sure if a load of people who weren't there saying sorry will achieve anything. It might even seem a bit false."

Not all share his view. Les Lawson, secretary of the Merseyside branch of the official Liverpool Supporters' Club, believes the time is right for an apology, and many of his members agree.

"I would hope there will be at the least a minute's silence, so that Liverpool fans can show to Juventus counterparts in the stadium and back in Italy that we are truly sorry for what happened back in 1985.

"There were a lot of mitigating circumstances, but we are sorry, and I hope the games are remembered for the football and the respect shown to those that lost their lives."

Lawson is resigned to a hostile reception in Turin in 11 days' time. In a sense he expects nothing less. "We will never forgive South Yorkshire police for Hillsborough, so why should Juventus fans ever forgive us?"
 
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Apr 22, 2003
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'It makes me shiver. I shan't be watching'

Champions League tie at Anfield will bring mixed emotions

Juventus are Italy's national - as well as most celebrated and envied - team. There is a vast network of Juventus supporters' clubs across the country and throughout the world, reflecting the fact that only a fraction of the team's fans come from around Turin itself.

Within Italy, most people who would call themselves Juve fans come from the south (Sicily, Puglia, Calabria) and even within the industrial powerhouse of the Piedmontese capital itself, indigenous citizens tend often to support Juve's local rivals, Torino. Much of Juventus's fan base in the stadium is made up of internal migrants from the south, come north to work at Fiat, and those who have travelled from miles around.

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The club in Mesagne, where Bruno and Alberto Guarini were members, hallmarks thousands of other communities across Italy. "We are the most loved, and the most hated team in Italy," says the vice-president of the club, Franco Galasso.

On Wednesday night, a small crowd gathered at the club to watch a friendly between Italy and Iceland. The walls are festooned with Juventus photographs, pennants and memorabilia, not least a pennant commemorating the match on May 29 1985 and a photograph of the victorious Juve team.

The assembly is a mixed one: local authority employees, children, students, farm workers and professionals - all of whom share a passion for football and Juventus. Few get regularly to a live game, and not one has the slightest interest in fighting under their team's colours. Herein lies a cruel twist to what happened at Heysel Stadium in 1985.

Tickets for the Juventus end of the ground went on sale in Turin, picked up by fans there, including the infamous Ultras, a mob who tried to stage a riot of their own that night after the hideous events at the other end, where 39 of their co-supporters were killed.

Tickets for most of the other end went on sale in Liverpool. But those in Z block at the corner of that end were either returned from England unsold or put up for sale in Brussels itself.

A few of these accursed tickets were bought by Italians living abroad, or touts, but for the most part they were snapped up by travel agencies and circulated for sale among the network of Juventus clubs across Italy, in places like Mesagne.

"We were mostly families who went to Brussels that day," says Galasso. "Families and friends from around here, from Sicily and Calabria." For many, says Galasso, the trip to Brussels was the first time they had ever seen Juventus live in a stadium.

The group is divided between veterans of Heysel and those either not there or too young to remember. And there is a range of sentiments about Tuesday's fixture at Anfield.

Daniele Librato was standing right next to Bruno and Alberto Guarini when Alberto was killed, but insists that "it's time to play again, 20 years later. I only wish it was the final so we could beat them again but without everything else that happened."

Gino Ricco, who was not at Heysel, says: "The whole thing makes me shiver. I shan't be watching the match on Tuesday." Galasso says: "Personally, I couldn't watch a game for three years after what happened."

The younger generation of fans is divided - even two brothers. "For me it is all talk from another time," says Alessandro Cesaria, who was five months old in May 1985. "For me, that was the year we won the cup and that's what matters."

His brother Antimo, however, disagrees with passion. "I was nine years old and I will never forget it. We were all wounded that night and it would be shameful for anyone to ever forget it."

One of Italy's three daily newspapers devoted almost entirely to football, Tuttosport is published in Turin and each morning devotes several pages to Juventus. In the wake of the draw, there were inevitable recollections of Heysel, with a general message that "it is time to begin again" and "to be calm".

Latterly all three papers have been more concerned with whether Juventus's Czech star Pavel Nedved will be fit to play than with events 20 years ago.
 

ZhiXin

Senior Member
Oct 1, 2004
10,321
#18
Hope that the hatred of fans from both sides would be reduced to a minimum. And I wish that a peaceful + entertaining game would be brought by the both sides. May the best team win.
 

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