Heysel remembered, 25 years on
29 May ~ On Wednesday of this week the 25th anniversary of Heysel was marked with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Anfield. Former Juventus player and sports director Gianluca Pessotto joined Sergio Brio (the ex-Juve defender who played in the 1985 European Cup final) at the ceremony, described afterwards by Brio as "beautiful and touching". A service was held at Liverpool Town Hall yesterday, with the civic bells ringing out 39 times, a symbolic tribute to be repeated again later on this evening.
In the past, one couldn't help but feel that it was Liverpool (the club and the city) that took the lead when it came to honouring the various anniversaries of May 29. Certainly in comparison Juventus always appeared a touch uneasy remembering the tragedy, while in Belgium the attitude was one of embarrassed silence. Indeed, it was only five years ago that authorities in Brussels formally apologised to the families of the dead for the lack of adequate security at the game and their slowness to react to the unfolding events.
Since 2005 there have been more coordinated, official programmes to observe the passing of time. This morning the mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans, will lead a ceremony at the renamed King Baudouin stadium, delivering a speech before a minute's silence. In Turin, Michel Platini will take part in a service at the bianconeri's HQ, joining fellow former players, family members of victims and a delegation from Liverpool. Later in the afternoon fans will march from the centre of the city to the club's offices.
Juventus have always played down any calls that the club should return the 1985 trophy in deference to the dead. Walter Veltroni, the former mayor of Rome and ex-leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has written a theatrical monologue, recently published as a book. When the Acrobat Falls, Enter the Clowns takes its name from Platini's acerbic phrase, used as explanation to journalists after the game for his celebrations on scoring from the penalty spot, and the team's lap of honour at the final whistle. Arguing about the past, or moral point-scoring over Juve's lack of judgement in treating the tragedy as little more than an unfortunate backdrop to their first European Cup win, is irrelevant now. In the words of Veltroni, such quarrels are "sterile and stupid... the problem isn't the cup, but the memory of that night, which we need to conserve to avoid repeating".
The anniversary comes at a time when the much-maligned tessera ID card for travelling away supporters has once again stirred up controversy, with Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi forced to apologise after suggesting that the police should also be subject to similar scrutiny and control. The lingering bitter irony, that English football was quick to learn the lessons of Heysel, while the game in Italy remains troubled and in a confused state of flux, will hang heavy over today's ceremonies. Matthew Barker
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