25 years ago was the Hillsborough Disaster, a moment that marred what many people call the beautiful game. The beautiful game set to play at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England on April 15, 1989 was instead replaced with mayhem. It was a scene worthy of a big budget disaster movie.
One of the mainstays in soccer worldwide are hooligans. Hooligans are found in other sports, but typically not with the same moniker. Soccer hooligans are those unruly, rabid fans that will taunt the opposing team and fans, throw things at players, and a lot more questionable behavior. To battle problems with hooligans, many soccer stadiums throughout the world have taken security measures to lower the chance for dangerous situations.
One such measure has been to segregate fans. Fences have been installed in many stadiums to keep fans away from each other and off of the pitch, or soccer field. This was the case at the stadium in Sheffield for the game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The amount of fans that showed up to support their football (soccer) clubs exceeded the expectations of the stadium staff.
The beautiful game started 25 years ago after the disaster was already beginning. Hillsborough Stadium. The gates opened and fans rushed in. They continued to rush in to the point of overcrowding. Fans were being pushed toward the fence that was supposed to separate them from the field and the players. More and more fans, unaware that there was a problem in front of them kept pushing in so they could see their team. I was reported that no one was directing fans to other seating sections once one was full. Fans were now being pushed up against the fence as more fans pushed their way in.
With the match underway, no one was focused on what was happening in this single section. The match was stopped when fans began to climb out of the over packed section to avoid being crushed to death. It suddenly became apparent that there was something wrong, but it was too late. Some people were beginning to suffocate, but the biggest problem were the people being crushed against the fence in place to keep them safe.
96 people died that day. 96 fans who just wanted to see a soccer game. Over 700 more were injured in the mayhem. Fans who lost their lives in the crush ranged in age with the youngest being 10 years old and the oldest 67. Fans who were injured suffered various injuries. One of those fans, 22-year old Andrew Devine, became known as the 97th victim of the disaster. Devine, who is now 47-years old, was being crushed in the disaster and fell into a coma after his brain was not receiving oxygen. Devine suffered severe brain damage as a result of the disaster and is now immobile and confined to a wheelchair.
To this day, the disaster is still being investigated. Questions are still in need of answering from police and stadium staff on what went wrong and how it ended up in such a horrible way. The fact that 25 years later people are still looking for answers has many families still searching for closure.
Today, throughout soccer matches taking place in the United Kingdom, matches are starting seven minutes late to honor those who lost their lives 25 years ago in Sheffield. In Liverpool, church bells rang 96 times in remembrance. And the remembrance extends around the world. ESPN will air a special program about the disaster tonight in the United States and during week 6 of the MLS season, fans have displayed banners remembering those who died 25 years ago. Remembrances have popped up all over the soccer world.
While the beautiful game may have been marred after the Hillsborough Disaster struck 25 years ago, fans and players continue to remember. Survivors and fans still want answers to why this had to happen. However, one bright spot from this tragedy, Devine attended his first memorial service for the event that changed his life forever.
Commentary by Carl Auer