It was the final that everyone wanted – the Champions of England and current European Cup holders versus the Champions of Italy and holders of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Liverpool and Juventus were two teams at the height of their powers with international players in every position. A mouth-watering display of footballing talent was keenly anticipated by a TV audience of tens of millions across Europe. What they got instead was a slowly unfolding tragedy which formed a terrible backdrop to an increasingly irrelevant game of football. The name of the host stadium, Heysel, in Belgium, has since become a watchword for hooliganism, official incompetence and structural neglect.
The match was treated like any other big final. Tickets were allocated to the two sets of fans and they were to be separated by a neutral enclosure. Officials from both clubs had warned that many, mainly Belgians, in the neutral section were likely to sell their tickets, at a price, to partisan fans. There was a history of violence between English and Italian clubs and the previous year’s final in Rome had ended in acrimony when Liverpool beat the local side Roma on penalties. Roma fans, the police and local hoteliers had all turned on Liverpool fans, who were forced to seek refuge in the British embassy.
Heysel was Liverpool supporters’ chance for revenge. The neutral section quickly filled with mainly Italian fans and all that separated them from the Liverpool section was a flimsy fence. Taunts started and then missiles began to fly. The fence was quickly breached and the Liverpool fans advanced. Panic erupted as Juventus supporters tried to retreat, only to find their way blocked by a concrete wall. The pressure proved too much and the structure gave way, crushing the trapped Italian fans.
When was the Heysel Stadium Disaster: May 29 1985
Where was the Heysel Stadium Disaster: Brussels, Belgium
What was the Heysel Stadium Disaster death toll: 39 killed (38 Italians and one Belgian); 400 injured.
You should know: Heysel Stadium was built In the 1920s and was clearly not suitable for such an occasion. It had failed inspections and the threat of closure hung over it. Because of this, little was spent on maintenance.
Local police had embarked on a policy of getting unruly fans into the stadium early rather than arresting them. All of these factors contributed to the tragedy.