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Bitter row over Heysel football tragedy

Published on 30/05/2005

30 May 2005

BRUSSELS – The 20th anniversary of the Heysel tragedy in Belgium has provoked bitter accusations.

On Sunday, at 3pm, representatives from football clubs Juventus and Liverpool joined supporters, Brussels authorities and other dignitaries to remember the 39 people who were killed at Roi Baudouin stadium on 29 May, 1985.

Around 1,000 people watched as a 13m-high sculpture was unveiled to commemorate one of the blackest days in football history when Liverpool hooligans forced their way into seating for Juventus supporters.

Shaped like a sundial, the sculpture was labelled “Stop all the clocks”.

On Sunday, Brussels city also awarded a new prize, which it has created to encourage tolerance in football. It went to the southern Spanish supporters’ club Pena Multicolor, which supports El Ejido, a multi-ethnic club created after a racist murder in the region.

However, the weekend commemoration was marred by comment in the Belgian press over the absence of Frenchman Michel Platini, the only player who scored a penalty in the infamous match 20 years ago.

Although trouble broke out an hour before the 1985 kick-off and left as many as 600 injured, the authorities decided the match should go ahead to avoid an escalation in the crowd’s mood.

Ever since then, Platini has been a controversial figure – for his victory tour after scoring and for refusing to comment on the Heysel tragedy ever since.

On Saturday, Sudpresse newspapers accused Platini of indecency. “The 29 May 1985 has never existed for one man”, stated the news group.

In ‘La Derniere Heure’ and ‘Les Sports’, Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans criticised Platini for his silence on Heysel, stating he had been invited to the commemorations for the tragedy.

“We’ve called Michel Platini many times and sent several letters,” he said. “He hasn’t deigned to reply. It’s a shame.”

Platini responded angrily to the criticisms, stating they were aimed at the wrong target. He said his sympathies for the victims were heartfelt and didn’t need to be expressed through the media.

He said he had replied to the mayor’s invitation and reiterated his promise that he would never return to the scene of the tragedy.

“The mayor of Brussels is displacing his responsibilities,” he said. “I don’t have this tragedy on my conscience.”

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news