39 dead, 600 injured… On May 29, 1985, one hour before the Liverpool-Juventus match in Turin, at the Heysel stadium in Brussels, violent attacks by English hooligans against Italian supporters turned into a massacre. Scenes of war that the police forces, the Belgian authorities and the European football authorities were unable to manage, for lack of preparation. Under the cameras and the gaze of four hundred million viewers. Terrifying images of the dying, crushed, trampled, suffocated by panicked human waves. Death live in the stands of a stadium. Desolation and misunderstanding.
From this page of history, Jean-Philippe Leclaire, deputy editor-in-chief of L’Équipe, drew a book, in 2005, Le Heysel, a European tragedy (Calmann-Lévy) and, last year, a series six-hour documentary, in six episodes, co-signed by filmmakers Jan Verheyen and Eddy Pizzardini. A methodical autopsy – before, during and after – dissected with English (hooligans), Italian (victims and families of victims) and Belgian (police, rescuers and journalists) witnesses. Unable to evacuate the spectators, it was decided to play the match in front of devastated stands. The players say, thirty-seven years later, that the truth had been hidden from them.
Where we discover the negligence of the Belgian authorities, at all levels, then the general denial. When it comes time for trials, “responsible but not guilty” will be the general line of defense, from hooligans to ministers. Only lamplighters and scapegoats will toast.
Presented during the 10th Sport, Literature and Cinema Festival, organized by the Lumière Institute in Lyon, this remarkable series, dignified and respectful, edifying put into historical, social and cultural perspective, was broadcast last fall in Belgium with a considerable audience rating. But, in France, no channel or platform has bought or programmed it, despite its educational virtues.
Few lessons have been learned from this tragic textbook case, yet followed by several bloody aftershocks, such as, on April 15, 1989, the giant stampede at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield: 97 dead, 766 injured. In May 2022, the congestion of an uncontrollable influx of supporters with fake tickets at the Stade de France could have degenerated.
Show The tragedy of Heysel imposes itself, if only to draw some useful lessons from it, beyond the emotion.
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