27 Years Later, The Hillsborough Disaster Is Still Haunting

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Update, April 26, 2016: This post has been updated for the 27th anniversary of Hillsborough disaster.

Twenty-seven years ago, 94 people died while attending a football match in Sheffield. Two more died following the match – the last one after spending four years connected to a respirator. More than 700 Liverpool fans, who had attended the Hillsborough Stadium for the semifinal match between their club and Nottingham Forest, were injured. The images are very hard to watch. It is England’s worst stadium tragedy.

As with many of these unfortunate events, the cause is a tragic sum of factors: a larger turnout than expected, a stadium that was not up to code on safety, deficient crowd control at the gates, rash decisions and a breakdown of security procedures. Kenny Dalglish, manager at the time and now a member of the board of directors at Liverpool, wrote in his autobiography: “Hillsborough haunts me still.”

The tragedy was twofold, because for years the police singled out Liverpool fans as the cause of the disaster. The authorities refused to revise their accusations until very recently. Alleged “exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence” on the Liverpool fans were deemed non-existent by a formal public inquiry and David Cameron officially apologized to the families of the victims two years ago.

To mark the anniversary, a ceremony was held last week at Anfield. Roberto Martinez, coach of the city rival Everton’s struck a chord with the crowd.

One is reminded in unfortunate anniversaries like this that Latin American stadiums have had their share as well. One of the biggest tragedies in the continent is known as “La Tragedia de la Puerta 12.” During the last minutes of a River-Boca match at the Monumental in 1968, a human avalanche of people trying to leave through Gate 12 –the gate used by the visiting side– ended with 71 people trampled and crushed.

However, the biggest tragedy in Latin America happened in Peru at the Estadio Nacional. Argentina and Peru played an Olympic qualifier; the Argentinian side was winning and with very few minutes to go a Peru equalizer was disallowed. This enraged fans and police fired tear gas into the terraces thinking they would put an end to the rage. Instead, they incensed the few rioters and ignited a panic among the spectators who wanted nothing to do with the violence. Tear gas and chaos sent people running for the exit and caused a fatal crush. 320 people lost their life that afternoon.

Absolute tragedies.