Taunts and trouble mar Juve's attempts to deal with the past
Thursday 14 April 2005
Forgive and forget? Many in Turin can never forgive and few will ever forget.
Forgive and forget? Many in Turin can never forgive and few will ever forget. Imagine yourself in their shoes, burying a father or son, a brother or lover, and it is easy to understand the enduring bitterness both of those who suffered a personal loss at Heysel and of the wider Juventus community. Irrational though it may be to hate, and hold responsible, every Liverpudlian, every Englishman, it is equally understandable. Who among us, in all honesty, can say they would feel otherwise?
That was the backdrop to the uneasy mood which pervaded this stadium last night. Twenty years may have passed since Heysel but for some it could have been yesterday. The angry response of the few to the belated hand of friendship offered by Liverpool at Anfield last week presaged a more venomous reaction in Turin.
If serious trouble appeared to be largely averted during the game this was more through lack of opportunity than lack of desire or skilled policing. The banners told the story. Some were provocative (Reds. Animals! English shite), some bitter but thoughtful (Easy to speak, difficult to pardon: murders), some humorous (You are more ugly than Camilla). And some chilling (15-4-89. Sheffield. God exists). This last being a reference to the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool supporters died.
For many Juventus fans this fixture was the first opportunity to express their lingering and genuine bitterness over Heysel. Some of those who lost family have done this, eloquently, in the last fortnight. For others it was an excuse to start a ruck. It was those "supporters" Alessandro del Piero was addressing before the game when he expressed the hope Bianconeri followers would show the same respect towards the Liverpool fans as they had received at Anfield. "I was a boy when the Heysel disaster happened," said the Juve captain. "I know that nothing that we do can cancel what happened. The wish of both clubs, and of the Liverpool fans, is not to erase what happened but to show that things can be done the right way.
"The tribute at Anfield gave the Liverpool fans the opportunity to say sorry and we have to remember that these fans were not the ones that were at Heysel.
"We have to accept in an intelligent way their excuses and make sure that the Heysel tragedy remains a lesson for the future."Fine sentiments, but few heard.
The first incident came overnight when a Liverpool fan suffered minor head injuries after a pre-meditated attack in Turin. A group of around 20 Juventus "Ultras", accompanied by young women to avoid detection by the strong police presence, were said to have toured the city's bars looking for Liverpool fans. When they found them, the women left and the Ultras covered their faces with black and white scarves before attacking the fans.
This seemed to be an isolated incident as, for most of yesterday, Turin hummed with its usual commercial life. There was tension in the air but Liverpool fans kept a relatively low profile, the police a high one. As a result, no major incidents were reported.
It helped that Juventus draw their support from across Italy, and most fans arrived in Turin near kick-off time. Many Liverpool fans had also delayed their arrival. But by the time the focus shifted to the stadium the reality was that, for many, this was about revenge. Outside the ground tear gas was fired as police struggled to keep home fans from attacking the Liverpool support.
Inside, before the game and during the interval, Ultras threw seats and plastic bottles filled with water, or worse, into the pens housing Liverpool fans without any sanction from stewards or police. Several supporters needed medical treatment after being hit. Others, once they realised the police were not taking action, enthusiastically threw the missiles back. Liverpool's own stewards largely looked on, seemingly intent, like the home authorities, on preventing any direct confrontation.
The lone banner in the Liverpool section featuring both club crests and the word "friendship" seemed meaningless. Another, which carried the legend "Do you think we would leave you dying?", though a reference to the dead of Hillsborough not Heysel, appeared grotesquely insensitive. So was the rush to taunt the defeated Juventus supporters at the final whistle, an act which prompted the Italian fans to fire two rockets at the Liverpool followers.
It was an ugly night for the beautiful game. One can only hope that, at last, the wound has been lanced and the 39 innocents who died in Brussels can finally be remembered in peace.
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