Coronavirus crisis restricts Heysel disaster remembrance

Sports

FILE – In this Friday, May 29, 2015 file photo, a man holds an original banner from the 1985 match during a commemoration at the King Boudouin (formerly the Heysel) Stadium in Brussels. Friday, May 29, 2020 marks 35 years since 39 victims lost their lives during a European Cup football match between Liverpool and Juventus due to a surge of rival supporters resulting in a collapsed wall. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Authorities and fans on Friday marked the 35th anniversary of the Heysel Stadium tragedy where 39 people died during violence at the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus.

Flowers and wreaths were laid at a remembrance plaque at the King Baudouin Stadium, which was renovated and renamed after the tragedy. The ceremony was limited in size because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to the final, hooligans from a stand holding Liverpool fans smashed their way into an adjacent section for Juventus supporters. In the ensuing chaos, the victims were either trampled or suffocated to death as they tried to flee the violence. Others died when a retaining wall collapsed.

“Every year I come here to give the flowers for the community of Italians, because I will never forget this night, never, never, never,” said Sandro Follacchio, a Juventus supporter who was at the match.

The match controversially went ahead, allowing the authorities to restore a semblance of order in the chaos and arrange a relatively peaceful departure of the fans of both clubs. Juventus won 1-0.

The scenes of death and destruction remain etched in soccer’s collective memory.

“Unfortunately, I saw the dead. And lo and behold, it is a memory that will remain etched in memory forever. And I would like to say again that football is a celebration of a sport and not a place where hooligans fight in the defeat of victory,” said Pietro Fragapane, a Juventus supporter who attended the memorial service.

The disaster was instrumental in improving stadium safety across the continent, and hooliganism has lost much of its violent edge.

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