So if you listened to Soccer Morning on the 11th you heard Jason interview Daniel Gordon who is the director of the ESPN 30 for 30 piece called Hillsborough that will air on April 15th 2014, the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.
What does this matter you might ask? For me it is part of the reason I am a Liverpool fan, and on April 15th 1989 was the first time I really became aware of LFC as the events of Hillsborough came to light. I had been to soccer matches (MN Kicks of old NASL, Eintracht Frankfurt while stationed in Germany) in the past but wouldn’t consider myself a fan and it would be a good number of years before I would come to follow the sport more closely. The events of Hillsborough however stuck with me, and while news wasn’t nearly as easy to find out as it is in the age of the internet, I tried to follow this story for a couple reasons. First, the simply tragedy of people attending a sporting event and paying for it with their lives had a mesmerizing effect on me, I was a huge sports fan and something like this just seemed alien to me. Second was the fact that clearly the story was being managed by the media and others, and it sure seemed like there was a lot more to the story than what was being let on. Whenever there is a tragic event people point fingers (you only need to watch the news on any given night to see this), but this was a bit odd that those in charge of the match were pointing fingers at the victims and that just didn’t sit well with me.
As time went on I became more of a soccer fan, thanks to the 1994 World Cup and the launch of MLS (the old days at the Horseshoe, or Cotton Bowl) and slowly as the internet and cable/satellite TV provided coverage of soccer from England and Europe I found myself drawn to follow Liverpool, in part due to the passion, grit and refusal of their fans to allow the injustices of Hillsborough to sit. If you don’t know much about what happened, well here is a short video Sky Sports did on the 20th anniversary:
It was about 6 years ago that I started writing about Hillsborough, and while those first couple of blogs posts have been lost to history. Here are the links to the last 4 years:
I can’t begin to imagine the last 2 1/2 decades for the families who lost someone on that day, or for those who survived. I can say that I am delighted that we are seeing the truth come to light, finally, after all these years and the only reason that happened was that the fans of Liverpool refused to allow the multiple layers of coverups and lies to stand. They continued to pursue the truth despite the media, the police, even the government trying to make this look like a group of fans gone wild. The 80’s had been a very tense time for the relationship of soccer fans in Europe with those groups, so it was easy to understand why there was such a bias. Had the family members simply gone away, the truth never would have come out, and finally last year as the results of the independent panel were released did everyone involved begin to learn the real truth.
That truth now 25 years later has lead to a new inquest into the events of that tragic day, that new inquest means that in the UK most of the media will be restricted in what they can say and show on Tuesday. Those restrictions don’t apply in the US and while I understand why ESPN has chosen to show their 30 for 30 special on Tuesday, it is a sensitive matter for many. I do encourage you all to watch the special either live or record it, the events of that day impact the lives of almost every soccer fan even still today. How stadiums are built, how events are managed and often how fans are treated all have been impacted in some way by the events of that day and the investigations into what really happened.
Nothing will ever bring back those that were lost, nothing can ever comfort the families, but the knowledge that justice is finally close has to ease the pain they have suffered for the past two plus decades. I have been impressed how over the years the club has continued to show such strong support for the families of those lost as well as the survivors, and how while the most bitter of foes on the pitch come together to show their support for those who lost their lives 25 years ago. It was the passion and dedication of the Liverpool fans that lead to the truth finally being found and it is that same passion and dedication that will eventually lead to Justice for the 96.
One day I will make a trip to Liverpool and I hope to see a match at Anfield, but the real purpose will be to pay my respects to those who had their lives taken for simply going to watch a team they loved play a sport they loved. I may never know anyone who was there that day but I can tell you this, every Liverpool fan is a part of the family that lost someone that day, and you will never see a Liverpool match where the 96 who lost their lives aren’t remembered and honored, and that is why this matters to every fan of soccer.
If you want to watch the memorial service online, it will be shown here
That’s How I See It