By Jo Dutton
Assistant producer, Heysel 1985: Requiem for a Cup Final
Following the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final match between Liverpool and Juventus, a BBC documentary looks at the tragic events of the 1985 Heysel Stadium tragedy.
More than 60,000 supporters were in the Heysel stadium on the night
Thirty-nine fans lost their lives following the collapse of a stadium wall. Italian survivors caught in the crush tell their stories.
On 29 May 1985, the scene was set for one of the all-time greatest European Cup finals.
Reigning champions, Liverpool, were defending their title against Juventus, a team who had won every other European trophy available and hungered after the last elusive crowning glory. The match was to be held at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels - the symbolic capital of Europe.
Thousands of Liverpool fans had travelled by ferry and train from the UK, while Juventus had even more supporters from every corner of Italy and much of continental Europe besides.
Heysel 1985: Requiem for a Cup Final
Sunday, 17 April, 2005
BBC TWO, 2100 BST
The two sets of rival fans spent the day in good humour, playing football against each other in the parks of Brussels, swapping scarves and mascots outside the stadium, and drinking and laughing in the remarkably warm sunshine.
A few random acts of violence in the city centre could not mar the prevailing party atmosphere.
The first inkling of trouble came as some of the Italian fans went into a stand called Block Z at Heysel's northern end, a couple of hours before the game, and found themselves in a stadium way past its prime.
"On the ground there were loose bits of cement, soil, sand," remembers one Italian woman, Tiziana Antonini.
"The stadium was coming apart."
Her concerns grew when scuffles broke out between Liverpool and Juventus fans crammed into Block Z.
It was her first time at a football match and her husband, Alessandro, tried to reassure her there was no danger and they would be safe where they were.
He maintained that despite the unusual ticketing - poor organisation meant that Juventus fans had ended up in a predominantly Liverpool zone - chanting, and pushing and shoving among rival fans was the norm in the build-up to a match of this importance.
Alessandro Antonini's reassurances were premature, however.
The violence escalated and 45 minutes before the scheduled kick-off, Liverpool fans started to charge the Italians who, panicking, headed en masse towards the side wall of Block Z. The resulting stampede and crush proved fatal.
Nearly 40 people were trampled to death, many dying of suffocation under the pile of bodies, in places six-people deep.
Guido Corini, a Juventus fan who had travelled with his great friends Danilo and Armando Ragazzi, two brothers from Milan, and their cousin, Domenico, recalls the moment of the crush:
"Within a couple of minutes, I felt my trainers sucked right off my feet. I realised I was barefoot. My feet weren't even touching the ground. I tried to escape, but since my feet weren't even touching the ground I couldn't and I fell.
"But I heard someone say; 'they're charging again,' and in my desperation, I grabbed the wall and pulled myself over it without even looking. There could have been a 50m drop the other side of the wall for all I knew."
Jumping over the stand's back wall proved to be Guido's salvation. At that moment, the side wall of the stand had just collapsed.
Ironically, this saved lives, as it relieved the pressure of the crush, allowing the trapped fans to escape.
The more fortunate Juventus supporters flooded out of Block Z, many wounded and all traumatised.
Guido Corini remembers: "I was crying, I think from the fear, what had happened. But strangely you pull yourself together and you think - Where's Danilo? Where's Armando? Where's Domenico?"
He managed to find the two brothers, but their search among the living for Domenico proved futile. Eventually they recognised Domenico by his shoes in a Red Cross tent, a makeshift morgue, set up outside the stadium.
Amazingly for many involved, the match, though delayed for two hours, went ahead.
General Bernaert, the then Belgian gendarmerie commander, decided that the game had to be played in order to preserve public order and allow enough time for troop reinforcements to be marshalled outside the stadium to prevent further incidents between the rival fans.
Many officials and organisers also felt that the game would provide a distraction for the fans and that they would channel their excess energy into supporting their teams. This proved true, there was no further violence.
However, opinion is divided. Many people think the decision to play the match was wrong.
Mark Lawrenson, a Liverpool defender at the time, remembers his instinctive response was:
"If the chief of police says we've got to play and Juventus say they're going to play, then we should play."
Twenty years on, however, he thinks: "That was complete rubbish. We should have just abandoned the game and just gone home."
The Juventus manager, Francesco Morini, speaks of how his players - several of whom were aware that Italians had died on the terraces - felt unable and unwilling to play:
"Some of the players were sitting with their heads in their hands, some were throwing up, some had already taken a shower and were dressed, ready to leave."
His difficult task was to psych them up, ultimately persuading them to play:
"To preserve the honour of those who have died, to give them a good send off," he claims.
The game kicked off over two hours late, in a surreal atmosphere.
But, by the second half, the players were fully engaged and the crowds, to the surprise of the match organisers, were chanting and applauding as though nothing had happened.
Marcel Van Biesen, the head of the stadium, was stunned to find himself standing next to a Juventus fan, who had fled from Block Z to the VIP stand, he was "barefoot and covered in blood, and yet he was cheering on his team."
Minutes into the second half, a much-contested penalty was awarded to Juventus.
Their star striker Michel Platini scored.
Bruce Grobbelaar, the Liverpool goalkeeper, who has always felt the game should not have gone ahead and experienced a strange sense of detachment for much of the match, admits that at the moment of the penalty, all this changed and he was 100% determined to save it:
"I got a rush of adrenalin wanting to save this penalty.
"When Platini, one of the best footballers in the world steps up and has a penalty to take against you, you want to do your best - it's him or you," he claims.
The fans and the players went wild. Juventus retained the lead, and won the final 1-0, and the Italian euphoria at the end of the match gave little hint of the earlier tragedy.
The Juventus players' response was widely criticised in the media for their insouciance and lack of respect for the dead.
Stefano Tacconi, the then goalkeeper, protests that it was as though they and their fans were "under hypnosis" and that the essence of football is that "you go out and play and forget about everything else but football for 90 minutes."
His manager, Francesco Morini, draws a parallel with warfare:
"In spite of the deaths and bloodshed, in the moment of victory you rejoice because it's like you've taken revenge on your enemy. Later you reflect on all those who've died, but right at the moment of victory, it's pure revenge.
"We were saying - we've beaten the English after they killed our fans. We've shown them that nothing can defeat us."
Heysel 1985: Requiem for a Cup Final was broadcast on Sunday, 17 April, 2005 at 2100 BST on BBC Two.