champions-league

Liverpool fans are still scarred by the Champions League final six months on

Six months after the chaos that brought the Champions League final to life in Paris, Liverpool fans are still too scared to return to watching the games live.

Others appear to be watching their heroes “in awe” with the atmosphere at Anfield, one of football’s most iconic stadiums, described as “terrible” this season by local MP and fan Ian Byrne.

Real Madrid’s 1-0 win at the Stade de France on May 28 was overshadowed by events surrounding European football’s showpiece event.

Kick-off was delayed by 37 minutes as fans struggled to gain access to the stadium after being herded into congested bottlenecks on approach.

Police then fired tear gas at thousands of supporters locked behind metal fences around the perimeter of the stadium.

For many Liverpool fans, the scenes brought back memories of a crush at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 that resulted in the deaths of 97 supporters.

“I think we’re all still suffering from the aftermath of the final,” Joe Blott, chairman of Liverpool supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly, told AFP.

“A lot of people I know and other people are struggling to get to the game now as a consequence of crowd management.

“It’s tragic in its own way that they don’t want to go to the game because they’ve been to a game.”

There were no fatalities in the French capital, but there was still a physical and mental price to pay for both the lack of organization on the part of the authorities before the match and the mudslinging at supporters in the aftermath.

“So many people are still traumatized by what they experienced,” Byrne said.

“I think the atmosphere at Anfield reflects that. It’s been terrible this season and it’s not the football’s fault, it’s been really strange.

“I feel like people are at the game under anesthesia. It feels like all the passion has been sucked out.”

– ‘Fans saved lives’ –

“The reason there wasn’t a worse disaster is because of the behavior and experience of the Liverpool fans,” Blott added.

“For generations Liverpool fans have learned the lesson of Hillsborough. Why haven’t the authorities?

“People were telling people to calm down, people were saying ‘make sure you’re breathing’, ‘don’t climb over’, ‘let’s look after the kids’. All of that was from experiences and all of that was from football fans I think football fans saved lives.”

UEFA blamed the late start to the match on supporters “arriving late”, despite thousands being detained for hours outside the stadium before kick-off.

French authorities then claimed that an “industrial-scale fraud” of counterfeit tickets was the problem.

However, an inquiry by the French Senate in July found that it was a lack of preparation by the French authorities and UEFA, as well as poorly executed security arrangements, that were the cause of the chaos rather than the behavior of supporters.

An independent report on the events surrounding the final found that the unprovoked deployment of tear gas by French police “constituted a criminal assault.”

Images of the final tarnished France’s reputation for hosting major sporting events ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games, both of which will host events at the Stade de France.

But there is frustration at the lack of action to implement the recommendations in the Senate report.

“No safety can be guaranteed because nobody has accepted responsibility for something that was really serious and humiliating on an international stage for the whole country,” said Liverpool fan and journalist Daniel Austin, who was at the Stade de France on the night of the final. .

“The Senate report makes it clear that at no point was fan behavior a problem and the mistakes lie with the authorities. They could easily repeat them again because no measures have been put in place to deal with them.”

– UEFA lawsuit –

Over 2,000 Liverpool fans are in the process of pursuing UEFA in a class action for breach of contract in ticket sales and negligence over their duty of care to supporters.

But many more say they will not attend another UEFA-organized match, even if Liverpool returned to the Champions League final in future years.

The results of UEFA’s own investigation are expected in the coming days.

Anything short of an apology and full acceptance of responsibility for organizational failings on behalf of European football’s governing body will not wash with Liverpool fans.

“The truth,” Byrne said when asked by AFP what he wants to see in the results of the UEFA investigation.

“The truth about what happened and about the lies and smears aimed at Liverpool supporters from the start.”

kca/has/e.g

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