The sunset that nobody forgets, 35 years ago at Heysel football lost its innocence


The sky was a beautiful orange red, and in the air the first warmth of May wandered, first for Brussels, one of those places where spring sparkles for a long time and knows how to freeze the skin. We went to the stadium like a party. The horizon just behind that curve was also red, in turn scarlet due to the shirts of the Liverpool fans, the “reds”. Many, red also had faces, in the absolute contrast between the British milky skin (not infrequently they also have red hair, and mustaches), but more the result of alcohol, of endless drinking.

in reproduction ….

The bivouac around the Grand Place had lasted a couple of days, and the morning of the game extended into the city like a rave party. The British were lying on the stones paving one of the most beautiful squares in the world and drinking seated, drinking lying down, using packs of cans as cushions, burping in the faces of passersby. They yelled, threw glass, pissed on the walls. At one point, a crystal centerpiece, one of those objects that adorn grandmothers’ living rooms, flew from an elegant window and landed half a meter away from us. An old, exasperated Belgian lady must have thrown it.


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At six in the evening the stadium was still fairly quiet. Juve fans had arrived in order, little was seen during the day. Most had reached Brussels on last-minute charter flights, the cheapest. Families, friends, and then the elderly and children also went to the stadium. At that time, a Champions Cup final was still a festive collective rite: it would remain so for another hour, and then never again.


Juventus, thirty years ago the Heysel: Mass in Turin, Trap and Rush also present

Before the sun went down, in the rays of a sunset that lasted long and was now a dark red, blood red, the curve to the left began to sway. The British were moving like a barbaric migration. They pushed and sang. From the grandstand, however, it seemed only a slightly more lively mass movement, a choreography. We looked better: something was wrong. It was as if the people dressed in red, moving towards the adjacent sector, the notorious “Z”, divided only by a kind of chicken coop net, merged with the people dressed in black and white. A crush, but still vague. To the naked eye it was not clear. A colleague sitting next to us had binoculars. “But where are they going? Are they crazy? ‘He asked.


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It was like watching a documentary about tsunamis. The human wave rose and fell on what was in its path, yet the exact perception of the drama that was taking place was not immediate. We understood better when people invaded the camp. The luckier one had managed not to be overwhelmed. Arriving on the lawn was like reaching salvation after being closed in a demijohn, and finally having blown the cap. Many had failed, but it was still unknown.”There are wounded,” said someone. And immediately we ran out, going out into the open space in front of the tribune where the first bodies were taking. And then we saw, and understood. There were people lying down, others carried on barriers used as makeshift stretchers. There were gendarmes on horseback who went back and forth, going mad, twirling the truncheon. We turned to a man who was lying on his back and already had wide eyes. He had that huge, bare belly. Another man, certainly a doctor, tried to revive him and at a certain point, out of desperation, he practiced a tracheotomy. It didn’t help. The man with the bare belly was already dead.

We went up to the stands again to phone the newspaper. At that time cell phones did not exist. There was only a few fixed lines with disk machines. Some Italians approached and passed us cards with telephone numbers: “Please call our house and say we are alive.”

Everyone then had to play it. Gaetano Scirea’s voice still resounds in the air as he says “stay calm, let’s play for you”. In the meantime, outside, the dead were being carried away, and in the end they counted 39. There was a carpet of black and white scarves and shirts, and shoes, many, even for children. It was all absurd, perhaps necessary. Not playing, probably, the budget would have become even more atrocious. Juventus won thanks to a penalty won by Boniek, outside the area, and transformed by Platini. The Bianconeri withdrew the Cup and celebrated, they did it for their people and for a nervous outburst. “But I’m still ashamed,” Tardelli would later say.

A sentence is repeated, for exactly thirty-five years: that evening football lost its innocence. Maybe. Or perhaps, instead, he became only realistic, taking note of the ferocity that sometimes dominates the masses, and the unfortunate amateurism that can guide the hand of authority. It was insipidity more than fatality, and murderous lightness: the police and the Belgian government had understood nothing. Nobody lost innocence that evening because he never had it. If not those poor fans, those people waiting for a return that would never have happened.

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