Heysel Disaster

May 26th 1985 was supposed to be a glorious day in the history of the European Cup as the two dominant teams in Europe were to meet at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels to decide which of them would be crowned European champions. A crowd of 60,000 gathered on a warm sunlit night to watch a much anticipated match that would be watched by millions on television around the world.

Tragically, the game is now hardly remembered. What was memorable about that evening was the horrific events that took place before the match.

One end of the Heysel Stadium was a terrace that was mainly allocated to Liverpool fans, but also contained a small section mainly populated by Juventus supporters on one side. An hour before the game was due to kick off, Liverpool followers began breaking through the fencing that divided the sections. The Liverpool sections were overcrowded, mainly because many ticketless fans had managed to gain entrance through holes in the wall of the crumbling stadium. It has also been alleged that Liverpool fans were hit by missiles from the Juventus section and that they had retaliated fearing the kind of attacks that they had endured a year earlier in Rome. There is some dispute about the extent of the missile throwing, but it is commonly accepted that the neglected state of the stadium terrace made lethal missiles readily available.

In an attempt to escape these aggressive English fans, the people in Section Z retreated towards the corner of the terrace which was bordered by a wall. Most of the people who died were killed during the ensuing crush as the crowd surged towards a brick wall. Eventually the wall collapsed, killing more people as it fell on top of them. For many years the collapse of the wall was cited as the main reason for so many deaths, but in fact the collapse actually relieved the crush and probably stopped the death toll from being even greater.

Liverpool manager Joe Fagan who had announced that morning that he would be retiring after the match, wept as he took to the pitch in his red Liverpool shirt and told the crowd: ‘This is a football match. This is my last game as manager and you are spoiling it. Get back and be sensible.’ The stadium followed by broadcasting appeals in English, Italian, French and Dutch.

There was widespread chaos in the stadium as the dead and injured were carried away from one end, while severe disorder broke out in the other end which was totally populated by Juventus fans.

Despite this, the game went ahead some 90 minutes late in an attempt to avoid more violence occurring outside the ground. There have been varying accounts from players of both sides as to how much they knew about the events that had occurred.

Mr Rudi Rothenbuler, UEFA Press Secretary said afterwards: ‘Some people may say we shouldn’t have started the game. It was a hard decision to make. But it was not as hard as some of the decisions we shall have to make afterwards.’

British Sports Minister Neil MacFarlane: ‘We have seen things on television which I think will shock everybody up and down the country and throughout the whole of the footballing world. We are faced with an appalling problem which will cast a cloud on European football for ever and a day.’

As a consequence of the Heysel Disaster, English clubs were banned from European competition. They did not return until 1990.

These are the names of those who died at the Heysel on May 29th 1985:

Rocco Acerra (29)
Bruno Balli (50)
Alfons Bos
Giancarlo Bruschera (21)
Andrea Casula (11)
Giovanni Casula (44)
Nino Cerrullo (24)
Willy Chielens
Giuseppina Conti (17)
Dirk Daenecky
Dionisio Fabbro (51)
Jaques François
Eugenio Gagliano (35)
Francesco Galli (25)
Giancarlo Gonnelli (20)
Alberto Guarini (21)
Giovacchino Landini (50)
Roberto Lorentini (31)
Barbara Lusci (58)
Franco Martelli (46)
Loris Messore (28)
Gianni Mastrolaco (20)
Sergio Bastino Mazzino (38)
Luciano Rocco Papaluca (38)
Luigi Pidone (31)
Bento Pistolato (50)
Patrick Radcliffe
Domenico Ragazzi (44)
Antonio Ragnanese (29)
Claude Robert
Mario Ronchi (43)
Domenico Russo (28)
Tarcisio Salvi (49)
Gianfranco Sarto (47)
Amedeo Giuseppe Spalaore (55)
Mario Spanu (41)
Tarcisio Venturin (23)
Jean Michel Walla
Claudio Zavaroni (28)

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