April 03, 2005

The Heysel disaster. There has been no spectacle in the history of televised sport as compelling and atrocious as the night of 29 May 1985, when 39 Italians were killed on the terraces of the Heysel stadium, Brussels, in the murderous prelude to a European Cup final. On Tuesday, Liverpool and Juventus meet again for the first time since.

The witnesses The horror of Heysel scarred in the mind Liverpool's silence The propaganda and half-truths must stop

  • Very very good article. Thanks. I vaguely remember this incident, but being a 10-yr-old Canadian non-football fan at the time I had no sense of what it all meant.
  • Great articles. It's strange to contrast it with Hillsborough (which I remember, unlike Heysel - I was older, and my team were the opponents in that match). Because the story of Hillsborough is a simpler one - police incompetence, purely innocent victims - it's more clearly solidified in the collective consciousness. Heysel is complicated, and so we don't like to talk about it.
  • Good point Flashboy - and good post DNG - it is amazing how little Heysel is talked about compared to Hillsborough - esp when the repercussions were so great - It's arguable that its only in the last two or three seasons that English Clubs have got beyond the effects of the ban from European competition that was caused by Heysel.
  • Good post PNG. I'm a Crewe Alex supporter so our then lowly league status meant most of the violence passed me by as a teen on the terraces but that whole macho violent culture was certainly there in the working class communities I lived in. I've seen speculation that one cause of the decline in fighting after the 80s wasn't the wake-up call of Heysel and Hillsborough but the switch to dope smoking and acid house as opposed to drinking and Oi! Not sure about that myself but that seems to chime with what Hussey says in the second article.
  • png? Sorry dng - I'm altering your file format
  • Any way we could arrange it so that all the sports fans could kill all the other sports fans?
  • The last article is rather unpleasant, to say the least, as it seems to lay blame on about everybody but the actual killers, the Liverpool "supporters" who charged. Anyway, the points generally raised about the inadequate behaviour of the Belgian authorities, police and judiciary at the time are rightful, though. At that time in the '80s these were inept at best, corrupt at worst, as the Dutroux case would ultimately reveal. That case started a period of unprecedented soul-searching, that, I think, will ultimately benefit that country. While the crackdown on football violence in Britain was harsh, however, little seems to have been done against the underlying causes of that violence. To my (admittedly outside) eye his would appear to me to have merely moved the theatre of violence from the football stadia to British inner cities ca. 11 pm. Or to foreign beach resorts with less prevalent CCTV presence. Why is so little done about that, other than merely tending the wounds? There's a lot of talk about the "yob culture", yet binge drinking and pub brawls still seem to be accepted socially in a way that would be inconceivable anywhere else. For the record, I'm neither Belgian, nor British, nor Italian...
  • Er... complicated issue, Skeptic, but the most important distinction to draw is that football violence was organised, tribalised and occured along strictly drawn lines. Beered up fights after kicking-out time, be they in Croydon or Faliraki, are completely different situation - the random acts of small groups and individuals who are out of control in a crowded area. They're also in direct reaction to an unforseen stimulus (some bloke looking at your girlfriend, a pint being spilled, whatever.) Football violence was largely pre-determined - sizeable groups knew well in advance that they were going to get into a fight, and with what other group of people. Socially, something very different was happening... and from what I've read of descriptions written by former hooligans, it was also different psychologically. As opposed to simple, alcohol-fuelled, volatile aggressive behaviour - which is common across many, many cultures - the way hooliganism was described sounds a lot more like the ways extreme sports enthusiasts describe the rush they feel from hurling themselves off a cliff or out of a plane. I'm not an expert, but I really don't think that (many of) the underlying causes are the same, nor are the perpetrators necessarily the same kind of people.
  • Soccer's not my thing, but my jaw just dropped when I read the game went on!