Twenty years on and has anyone learnt any lessons?

Posted by Jamie_H on April 14, 2005, 09:56:54 PM

Got back home today, and thought I will give you my take on proceedings last night from Turin. 

Got a taxi to the ground from the airport, driver was about 60 years old and didn't speak a word of Scouse. Asked him to drop me off at Est 3 (Gate 3) to which he just nodded.  Headed down the motorway towards the ground and the heavy traffic slowed us down to a snail's crawl pace as we waited to turn off the motorway to the ground.

Now my flight had already been delayed and the last thing I wanted was to be walking into a potential cauldron of violence just before the game.  I was on me moby in the back of the taxi to me mates asking what the atmosphere was like,  how safe it was etc etc, and everything seemed ok they said. Then one of me mates from home text me the story of the baseball bat incident.  I was starting to think here we go.  As we had virtually slowed down to stopping in the lane trying to pull off, some Juve fans (I thought they were Ultras looking for Liverpool fans in the traffic) started walking up and banging on the window of my taxi. 3 big lads, black Juve scarves covering their faces. I soon locked the door of the cab.  Then the driver hinted they were ticket touts seeing if I wanted a ticket. My arse was chewing a toffee at that stage, then I understood and the futher we drove up the road, the more of these touts we encountered banging on the window.  I just kept stum shaking my head with look of no thanks on my face.

Anyway, we get near the ground, loads of Juve fans are walking to the ground, and the taxi driver stops the car and wants me to get out. Shit I thought, he cant drop me here I don't even know where I am going. I reiterated the "EST 3" line to him but he was having none of it. I gave him 30 euros and got out and just followed the crowd. To my relief, about 500 yards round the corner WAS Est 3 yet the walk could have been bother if a tout had asked me if I wanted a ticket and my accent came out. Thankfully no one did, as usual I was not wearing colours anyway, just a black Lacoste jacket so blended in not too badly. As I crossed the road, eyes were watching me, and I think some then realised where I was going. I soon jogged up to a bizzie and showed him my ticket and walked up to the gates to go in. There was a huge police presence outside. I would say about 200 bizzies were lined up further down the Juve end. I later heard that the Juve fans had tried having a pop and were dispersed by tear gas.

Saw a few of the stewards you see on match days from Anfield behind the armed police I just walked through, shook hands with em and had a chat to see if they were alright. They all looked a bit pale but seemed ok.  In I went to be handed the friendship wristband by another one of our stewards.  As I walked up the steps I saw me mates and we had a laugh about how shady it was outside and they told me what happened before I arrived regarding the Juve fans trying to have a pop at us with sticks. Got meself a drink and a cheese and ham roll then in I went. Thank Christ I missed all that then I thought.

The first thing that hit me was the age group of our fans as I walked in.  It was all the arl faces, the ones that come out for the moody games.  There was of course a lack of normal regulars, woman and kids, basically it seemed the majority of our fans there were expecting trouble and came in the knowledge they would be able to cope with it if it came their way.

In our section, I was in the middle tier. A few of my mates were down in the bottom tier and they couldn't get up. As the players walked out, the atmosphere changed, especially when we started singing You'll Never Walk Alone. The Italians to the right of us started hurling water bottles at us. I was down the front of the middle section and it pissed me off I would have to keep one eye on the game and one eye on bottles hurling towards me. One of me mates got hit on the shoulder and he said it fucking hurt. I decided to get some cover and headed to the back of the stand protected by the roof of the tier above.  The missile throwing was getting worse, our lot started returning the bottles and it just seemed it would continue.

They had lads in the lower tier to the right of us that then started setting off flares and hurling them in our lower tier.  I thought to myself this is turning nasty now.  A few of our fans started mimicking the crushed wall of Heysel and I thought thats all we need now. The missile thowing died down throughout the first half but at half time it all started again with more flares.  There was a group of lads singing "2-1 to the murderers" and it suddenly hit me that nothing has been learnt here. I didn't see them myself but saw them in the papers today the insults on the banners they had for us and the unnecessary mention of Hillsborough on a banner.

There was a very hard core element to our support last night, nothing less than you would expect for such a high tension game with the potential of violence.  But what happend last night is exactly what started proceedings in Heysel in 85.  Baiting from the Italians, missile throwing then an attack.  They tried attacking us trying to get nearer to us to get a better throw with bottles, flares and seats last night, but they were being fought back with the blue hard hat wearing stewards.  The difference between last night and 20 years ago was the segregation in the ground, the fences and plastic screens between both sets of fans separating us and the fact that the stewards did their job. Had they not been there and just a chicken wire then I would bet the lads in our section would have had a run back at them.   I asked myself this morning, had there been no proper segregation there last night and I don't mean by ticket allocation  but stadium structural segregation as I have just mentioned we would have probably have seen similar scenes as of 20 years ago.  It then sank in, well if we had played that final here in these surroundings and not at Heysel, then the disaster would have never of happened.

People say that the bizzies did a poor job last night but I think they did ok. The stewards controlled it as best they could and the entrance of police in riot gear could have flamed the situation worse. Italian police are well know of doing nothing unless it is a life and death situation. I think their tactics were spot on last night - a bit like Rafa's.

On the subject of the game itself, it was a superb effort , the lads worked their socks off, shame the night was tinted with the behaviour of some of our fans letting us down, but then again it is the nature of any football fan anywhere to react to provocation so nothing has changed eh. One of the performances from all our European travels and that was without our best player and captain on the pitch.

As for the Juve fans and general Italian football fans growing reputation, they have a big problem which UEFA needs to address before it does get out of hand.  I think you can safely say that even if we could bring back to life the 39 that so needlesly were taken from us back in 85; because of the behaviour of a number of fans from both clubs, last night would still have been as hostile, we would still be talking about the violence that marred the celebrations of us qualifying for the semi final of the Champions league.  I guess some lessons will never be learnt.

I do not blame the Juve fans for feeling the hostility towards us.  I must say thanks to the Italian policing the night passed without much incident, I was far expecting it to be a lot worse and more full on, but we were protected.  Like I say I don't blame the lack of forgiveness, we have to ask ourselves would we if the shoe was on the other foot? 

You can imagine what type of reception Millwall will get now from us if ever we are drawn in a cup game or heaven forbid they get promoted.  Because of the disgusting behaviour of a minority of idiots at the New Den earlier in this season all Millwall fans seen at Anfield will be treated with the least respect because of that, hence the feelings of unforgivingness from Juve fans over the last two legs of the Champions league 1/4 final. Its just a shame that the innocents get punished and blamed for the acts of the minority and foolish.

I don't think lessons will ever be learnt in all honesty.  Football will always have the disease of hooliganism associated with it. No matter how much Sky invests to bring in the families and clubs do all they can to kill any atmosphere by making sure grounds are full of less and less locals - somewhere, someday crowd trouble will alway be back to raise its head.

The tie is over now, both clubs will be pleased it passed without too much incident, certainly no casualties to talk of.  But again I doubt the underlying issues will be addressed and again it will be swept under the carpet just like the last 20 years.  Will football ever learn?

RIP Heysel 39 and our 96.  You will never be forgotten.

© Jamie_H 2005

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