IT seems clarification is in order. I suppose I must have subconsciously known it when penning a piece on Suarez and Evra that even going near the subject of Heysel was going to provoke reaction.
I decided to go with it, to be brutually honest, not for sensationalism’s sake but because I genuinely saw a parallel in one element of the history of the two eras in terms of Liverpool Football Club.
What I was drawing comparison with was the weight of media negativity towards the club and its support. I’m old enough to vividly remember the Heysel era.
In the days and weeks that followed it there was column after column printed, and talking head after talking head, after half baked sociology guy hauled before cameras to explain what was wrong with ‘us’ (Liverpool fans) as people.
It felt relentless and unfair on the vast majority of our supporters who would never have done anything to endanger other fans.
In retrospect it was reasonable to expect the torrent of negative coverage in 1985.
People had died, and football generally was rightly under the microscope.
At the time, I’ll confess, it felt overwhelming. I wasn’t sure if I felt guilt by association or angry defiance in that ‘we’ as LFC were all being tarred with one brush.
The comparison to now ? None, really apart from in this sense – I don’t recall the club coming under such intense negative scrutiny and criticism at any time since then, until now.
Of course the subject matter is very different but there are parallels in terms of the width and breadth of the media coverage. That’s all.
My point is that I felt ‘shame’ was being foisted upon us, en masse, and not in a proportional way. Of course then Liverpool fans were being labelled murderers and now it feels like we’re being tagged as racists.
Being called a killer is one thing, but being associated with racism has a very very nasty stench to it too, and a not inconsiderable historical implication to it to boot.
I don’t need reminding that there are sensitivities involved around Heysel, (especially by supporters of other clubs) but that doesn’t make the subject taboo, or for a subtle observation to be taken out of context.
I’ve read some of the comments at the end of my piece and most seem confined to the ‘you can’t go there’ variety. Why can’t I ?
Why can’t we talk about Heysel? Those involved in that fateful charge in Brussels carry the shame and guilt of Heysel with them. Forever I hope.
I don’t. Liverpool supporters as a wider group shouldn’t either.
That’s not to say we don’t take responsibility for what was done in our name, or that we shouldn’t have taken the lead in lending whatever assistance we could to grieving families of those that never came back.
It is correct too that we should remember and honour their dead as we do our own.
If I have mis-communicated the point at which the comparison begins and ends then hands up.
I thought I was clear in saying that ‘Heysel was about life and death. It was more important than an argument between two millionaire athletes, and the loyalties of two warring tribes,’ that I was not in any way comparing the severity of the two incidents. I was talking very personally about the way the two eras made me feel. That was my confession.