Juventus to help in healing Heysel pain

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The Independent Football

The Juventus fans who turned their backs upon Liverpool's attempt at reconciliation over the Heysel disaster on Tuesday may have suggested that there will be no forgiveness for the 39 deaths that night 20 years ago, but the message from Italy yesterday was very different.

The Juventus fans who turned their backs upon Liverpool's attempt at reconciliation over the Heysel disaster on Tuesday may have suggested that there will be no forgiveness for the 39 deaths that night 20 years ago, but the message from Italy yesterday was very different.

After a 2-1 defeat for Juventus, the Italian press applauded the great lengths that Liverpool went to in order to make amends for the behaviour of their fans at Heysel on 29 May, 1985, and the Turin club confirmed yesterday that they will reciprocate. Officials from Juventus have made tentative plans to hold an event on the Tuesday before the match as well as in the stadium the following day after discussions yesterday with the Liverpool management.

Of all the gestures that took place on Tuesday - and that included the former Liverpool captain Phil Neal and Juventus's ex-midfielder Michel Platini parading a plaque with the two clubs' crests - it was one from outside Anfield that drew most attention. La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy's leading sports newspaper, focused on the front-page apology by the Liverpool Echo which offered an unconditional acceptance of blame for the disaster on behalf of the city.

The editorial, headlined "We're sorry", apologised without restraint - "No ifs, no buts, no excuses" - and came from a newspaper that has maintained its reputation as a keen gauge of opinion in the city it serves. The Gazzetta's veteran London correspondent, Giancarlo Gallavotti, who was at the Heysel match 20 years ago, wrote "The Liverpool Echo's front page should be the last page on Heysel", so complete was the apology.

He also said that the reaction of Juventus fans who turned their backs, and made obscene gestures, towards a banner which bore the names of the 39 victims was out of keeping with the spirit of the occasion. The Turin-based daily La Stampa also added its voice to the condemnation of those Juventus fans who refused to accept the reconciliation with the headline: "At the festival of friendship, ignorance wins".

The newspaper criticised the Juventus fans for insulting members of the Liverpool council who greeted them at the city's John Lennon airport, where some arrests were made. The paper said: "It was to be the festival of friendship, a giant eraser to rub out the sins of the English at Heysel. The tribute of Liverpool to the Juventus fans became a diplomatic incident, an enormous embarrassment and in practice, a disgrace."

Platini, who had been Juventus's star player in 1985, watched the match alongside the former Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier and indicated later that Juventus did not expect their fans to react in the way that they did. "I cannot help what our fans did," he said. "They did what they decided they wanted to do and what they thought was best, so there you go. I did what I did because I wanted to do what was right, but I cannot help the other fans' reaction."

Liverpool have distributed an advisory with all the tickets sold for the away leg in Turin on Wednesday that tells fans how to avoid trouble in the Italian city. Although this is standard practice for big away matches in Europe, Liverpool will take more stewards and police officers to look after fans, who have taken up 2,500 of the 3,600 ticket allocation.

While Juventus will try to pick the right mood for their commemoration, many families of the victims are still extremely angry with the club, which they accuse of trying to ignore the deaths in 1985 because they were a distraction from the side's first European Cup.

For much of Italy, the disaster has already been forgotten and they treated Tuesday's events with interest tinged with bemusement.

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