Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Remembering Hillsborough

April 15th 1989 will always be etched into Liverpudlians' minds as the blackest day in their football lives. On that day, 96 lives, young and old, were lost at Hillsborough in a horrific stadium crowd crush that had numerous repercussions for years to come at Liverpool Football Club.

1. Kenny Dalglish, arguably Liverpool's most decorated player and manager, subsequently no longer had the state of mind and desire to continue in football. That incident greatly affected him though he handled the whole situation with a dedication and humility which clearly endeared him forever more into the Liverpool fan's psyche.

2. Liverpool FC never regained the same dominance in English football as it had prior to Hillsborough as the club's focus turned to community support and helping the affected families in their healing process. This meant a changing of guards with Manchester United assuming the role as the premier football club in England.

3. It was also a time where the whole city of Liverpool pulled together. Evertonians and Liverpudlians (who at the time, had the fiercest football rivalry) came together as brothers rather than sporting rivals. In an unprecedented act of solidarity, "The Mile of Scarves" linked the mile long distance between Goodison Park and Anfield, paying tribute to the 96 who had lost their lives supporting the club they loved.

This account came from a survivor, taken off the Official Liverpool Website,
Being afraid happens to us all. That day, for a few minutes in those enclosures, everybody shared the same fear. I survived because somebody went under a barrier. I was pushed up against it with no way of lifting myself over. My ribs felt like they were about to snap at any second and my lungs were on fire. I reached out and pushed up on the nearest thing. As I was pushing myself up, I looked round and realised that I was pushing someone else down. I wanted to stop, but I knew if I did, I would go down with him. So I didn't stop, and he went down, and I still don't know if I killed him.

Wow, what a chilling experience.

The 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster was just upon us - yet the fight for justice continues and the memories are still fresh in the minds. Why is that, you say?

Injustice #1
Right after the disaster, The Sun tabloid ran a story claiming to have the accurate perspective of the incident. The headline published was "The Truth" and in it, that tabloid laid all the blame solely on drunken, insensitive Liverpool fans which outraged the whole city. This was what the irresponsible tabloid wrote,

Under the headline "The Truth" there were three subheadings:
Some fans picked pockets of victims

Some fans urinated on the brave cops
Some fans beat up PCs giving the kiss of life

The story read as follows: "Drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims of the Hillsborough soccer disaster, it was revealed last night.
"Police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon by a hooligan element in the crowd..."

The Sun eventually apologized but it took them until 2005 to do so, 17 years on. I guess sensationalism and not realism has always been the bedrock of this tabloid. Not surprisingly, The Sun lost massive readership in Liverpool and long may it stay that way. The Sun is named The SCUM in Liverpool and rightly so for its callous and unrepentant behaviour.

Injustice #2
The idea that a disaster of this scale ended up with a verdict of "Accidental Death" is definitely an annual talking point. Liverpool families have been disputing this very hard but the obstacles are proving to be difficult. Yet the thought that no one i.e. the police and stadium authorities were held accountable, begs some more investigation. The truth is that the South Yorkshire police were heavily protected throughout this affair and the real facts were suspected to be covered up and amended. The inquests and investigations made from the Justice Department were, in some eyes, an act just for show. Worse still, a 2nd inquest turned out to be nothing more than a vote garnering tool for the power hungry Labour Party. Real evidence have been sidestepped and police testimonies have been changed. The victim's families are all active seekers of justice in this case.

One do learn from disasters. Hence, there were positives that came out of this sad day. The Taylor Report immediately suggested the abolishing of standing terraces, thereby introducing the requirement of all-seater stadiums and enforcing overall safety measures in stadiums.

Although there are some groups of people advocating the return of standing area in stadiums, I for one, would not like that. The sheer danger of it would repel any decent family man who want to enjoy a great footie day out with his son or daughter. For now, we should honor and respect the 96 football fans whose deaths introduced a new era of improved stadium safety and crowd organisation during big matches.

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