“The red wave, then the dark. Since that night at Heysel my life is a gift “- La Stampa


Trentacinque years slipped in a breath. The man who saw death in the face at the Heysel stadium is an elderly gentleman with a white mustache who will soon become a grandfather. Carmelo Di Pilla sighs in front of the photograph which became a symbol of the tragedy of the Champions League final between Juventus and Liverpool: he lifeless, other immobile bodies next to him, his arms wide and his eyes closed. “They thought I was dead, but I was born: waking up in the hospital late at night was my return to life.”

Carmelo Di Pilla, fate brought her to Sector Z …
I had booked the grandstand with three friends, we discovered we were in the curve when we collected the tickets and we didn’t even take it too much: it was important to be there and we were happy, we wanted to erase the disappointment of Athens where we had seen Hamburg celebrate “.

From Isernia to Brussels following the black and white passion.
“We reached Ciampino by car early, the flight in the morning, a tour of the city and at five in the afternoon already at the stadium. There was a festive atmosphere, yet a couple of things gave me very bad feelings ».


“Groups of already drunk Englishmen swarmed in the large park in front of the Heysel. And the structure immediately seemed inadequate to me: the entrance to our sector was a rusty door. “

The seats were not assigned …
At the time it was normal, we settled down the central staircase. I remember the dilapidated steps, the smiles of the people around and the flags of Juve, but I was worried by that red wave that became more and more swollen and threatening: the Liverpool fans screamed and pushed, threw stones and broken bottles, looked on their side and I saw them getting closer ».

Hell in a moment …
“Grobbelaar entered the camp, grabbed the camera and started shooting. I saw that it was 6.50 pm, the massacre took place shortly after ».

What do you remember?
«Shouts and noise. Fear and breathlessness. The hooligans all entered our sector together, the red wave overflowed and overwhelmed everything: I lacked the air, I had no voice to cry for help, I felt pushed forward and tossed, crush and pain, then only dark “.

Did you wake up in the hospital?
“I opened my eyes in the shadows, there was the smell of medicines and disinfectant, a nurse explained to me briefly what had happened. But I was in shock, I did not realize what I had risked and ignored the dimensions of the tragedy. I asked for the result of the game. Only later did I realize that at home they could be worried and I desperately looked for a telephone: my wife, fortunately, had not followed the game on TV and did not know, I was moved by hearing the voice of my son who was just four years old ».

Were other Italians injured?
“It felt like crossing a war path. In that lane as on the plane that brought us home. I saw people blindfolded and in plaster, faces swollen with bruises and bloody clothes. I stood in stone seeing myself in the mirror: my face was swollen and I kept wondering if it was me. The pains were severe, but the desire to go home, so I went in procession with other survivors: I returned to Italy with a pair of plastic slippers that they had given me in the hospital ».

Looking at the image taken at the stadium, do you feel a miracle?
I saw that photo for the first time on the plane that brought me home, it was on the front page, huge, in a newspaper that told the tragedy: I ​​was shaking and thanking the sky, the people around me pointed to me. Today, seeing her again, I think the second half of my life is a gift: I was thirty-six years old, thirty-five more have passed. I have returned to the stadium countless times, to do my job as a photographer and to obey my passion as a fan, but that night is an indelible memory: I often think about it, and I think of those who have not had my luck».


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