I WILL make it clear - before anyone points it out – that I wasn’t at Hillsborough that day.
I was two years old. I didn’t lose any family members, or people who I knew.
But I do know those who lost loved ones, who experienced that day, and who still fight for justice.
I have read the stories and I have heard them first hand. I’ve witnessed the ongoing feelings that just won’t subside. And for these reasons, I don’t think we should ever play football on 15th April, regardless of any consequence.
“I don’t think it’s even worth a line in a paper that we might play on the 15th because we won’t,” said Dalglish. “We’ve never played on the 15th before, have we? So there you are. Why would they change now?”
In response to a question about playing on the Hillsborough anniversary, Kenny Dalglish was unequivocal in his reply.
And most, if not all, Liverpool supporters welcomed it. Kenny Dalglish, speaking on behalf of the club, had made clear our position. So, that’s the end of it right?
Because in recent weeks, some have begun to speak out. Some have asked questions, querying and listening. They have been reasoned in their questioning. They may not agree nor fully understand, but they accepted. Some have not been so sensitive. Alan Davies brought it to the forefront of many people’s minds.
For me, and I assume many others, it was never in doubt. When I paid for my Grand National tickets back in 2011, a quick look at the fixture list out of curiosity got my mind working. ‘That’s semi-final weekend, I bet we get there now’, I thought to myself.
I checked the dates, Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th April. I knew we wouldn’t play on the Sunday so I would have to try and shift my race tickets with a few weeks to spare.
Yet others don’t get why this is the case. They don’t get why we can’t, or won’t, play on the Sunday. The debate and argument that has raged on Twitter hasn’t helped many. Some have tried to inform and engage with those who think we should play on that day. Others, as ever with Twitter, have gone over the top and threw stupid and vile insults out at those who don’t understand or don’t want to. Sometimes, 140 characters just isn’t enough. So I will try and set out just why for many of us, that day just isn’t for playing football on.
The Memorial Service
Some who think we should play on this day may not be aware of this but every year on 15th April, a memorial service is held at Anfield.
Supporters and those who wish to remember, fill The Kop and other parts of the ground, to be part of the annual memorial service. It has been held every year. They do so to pay their respects. They do so because they can, because they want to and because it is right to.
They recognise that supporters like them, went to a football match and never returned home. The playing staff and management of the football club also attend. Many have given readings and Dirk Kuyt will be the latest player to give a reading this coming Sunday.
The players are important to what happened at Hillsborough – it is part of their loyalty to the team to recognise what supporters endured that fateful day. The squad at the time were affected and played their part in helping the city grieve and recover. It is a comfort to the families and those who still grieve, that it still matters to so many.
Others do not attend the Memorial Service but pay their own respects elsewhere. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign gathers at the memorial on Anfield Road. Some visit the Book of Remembrance at the city’s Anglican Cathedral while a number of supporters make their way to Sheffield to visit the Hillsborough stadium. For some, it is just a day to be alone, visit the graves of loved ones and sadly remember the details of that day.
Alan Davies tried to claim that we can play 15th April because he doesn’t stay at home on the anniversary of his mother’s death. He may not – but some do. We all experience grief but we all deal with it and cope with it differently. Yet those who remember Hillsborough do not just stay at home. They remember.
Not everyone was at Hillsborough that day. But ask anyone in Liverpool and even beyond, and they can tell you of someone they lost, or someone they knew who lost someone. They remember the feelings and thoughts of that day and what they were doing when they heard the news. They remember the knocks on the door, the phone calls (or lack of), the worry, the fear and – for far too high a number of them – their worst fears being realised. That the loved one they waved off that morning was not ever returning home.
For those who were at Hillsborough, living through such a tragic disaster was beyond their worst nightmares. They remember the journey there, the traffic, the slow crush outside. They remember the bigger crush in the pens behind the goal, experiencing it or witnessing it from other parts of the ground.
They witnessed and experienced horrors that no one could imagine possible. They watched fellow fans, friends and family members die while the authorities stood idly by. They experienced first-hand that a football match was not important. That some things, such as life and death, were actually more important.
These memories don’t just start and finish on 15th April 1989. They aren’t confined to just that year or just that date. It is ongoing. It is a daily occurrence for some to still experience feelings and emotions that none of us would ever want to imagine possible.
Feelings of guilt that they survived but the person next to them did not. Questions about why they survived or why they chose to swap tickets for another stand and they avoided the anguish and despair of the Leppings Lane. Wondering why they turned left or right instead of heading straight down to the central pens. The nightmares. The flashbacks.
Some of those memories are best described here, by those who experienced them – http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/mar/15/hillsborough-disaster-survivors
But Manchester United play on the anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster
They do. As other clubs play on the anniversary of disasters they have experienced. That is their choice, their decision. Since when has what one does determined what another must do? Can it not be that people think differently?
No one disaster is more important than another. But the feelings around it may be. For Liverpool FC and its supporters, our decision and choice is to not play that day. It’s what we believe is right.
So what do we do? Do we ignore all the feelings, emotion, our sense of what we believe is right to play a football match that in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that important?
Or do we do what we choose to – to remember? So if you are sat there thinking “You should play that day”, try and possibly imagine what people have experienced and still experience.
Then magnify it by an infinite number.
Then ask yourself, is it really that important? Many LFC supporters don’t think football is important that day. Some even suggest that if pressed, we forfeit any match if we were expected to play on that day.
And if you still think to yourself “LFC should play on 15th April”, then fine. Just don’t expect us to agree.
And expect us to ask questions and take issue when you think we are so wrong, when you do it so insensitively and when in some cases, you just don’t care about the upset you cause.
We’ve experienced enough to last a lifetime due to that day already.