Late last month, the FA announced that as a mark of respect and remembrance for those who lost their lives at Hillsborough, all games taking place on the weekend beginning April 11th would kick off some seven minutes later than originally scheduled. A noble and appreciated gesture to commemorate the 25th anniversary of one of football’s darkest days, but one which also had me sighing into a facepalm almost instantly, as I contemplated the sudden, exasperating inconvenience those seven little minutes would promptly become to rival fans up and down the country, and how the next few weeks would once again be brought to us by the number ’39′ and the letter ‘H’, set against a backdrop of fabricated anguish.
Sure enough, having raised my concern on Twitter, I was quickly directed to various forums and timelines where vitriolic views had already begun to spread. These ranged from the grumbling “What if I miss the last fucking train?” to the extremely bollockheaded “Are we including the 39 who died at Heysel?”, as if Liverpool’s rivals not only cared so very deeply about those who died in Belgium in 1985, but also treated football’s tragedies as if they were a game of Top Trumps – arguing the toss over which bereavement should be most worthy of everyone’s time. The very mention of anything like this, proposed by means of competition or comparison, not only shows someone to be the absolute fucking cretin they are, but also serves to highlight just how many still use Hillsborough as a way of point-scoring, rather than seeing it for the shocking, repugnant cover up it’s always been. And this, despite a very detailed dossier of information being freely available to anyone smart enough to take the time. Thousands haven’t, but apparently this doesn’t deter them from assigning blame based on what they’ve heard elsewhere, or from lobbing the words “drunk” and “ticketless” into just about any debate with carefree abandon. If you’re lucky, they’ll even throw the “freedom of speech” excuse your way, too.
“When do we remember the 39 who died at Heysel as well?”
– A fuckwit, needing to be told when to remember something
To be honest, I’ve never quite grasped the concept of using the deaths of innocents to win an argument about football, but then I’ll admit to not being a total shitting moron, so perhaps that’s why the idea is alien to me. Tarring all fans with the same brush and deciding to pour scorn on their collective grief because I support someone else seems fucking moronic in the extreme. Likewise, the notion that shouting “Munich!” at Manchester United fans is not only completely ridiculous, but may just provoke more Hillsborough anthems from the Stretford End on a match day, strikes me as glaringly obvious. I can genuinely say I’ve never gone fucking mental at the mere mention of a planned minutes silence, and shouting my mouth off about the dead relatives of others couldn’t really be further from my thoughts at any given moment. It’s the sort of ruinous shite that’s only ever gobbed from the safety of a group or the relative anonymity of the internet, but gush forth enough of this bollocks and soon others are shouting it too, and one group joins another group to form a larger group, like one of those mega Transformers; a sort of ‘Twatimus Prime’ if you like. And on it goes, never ending. Outrage at abuse, reciprocated; behaviour passed from one generation to the next – learning to mock the dead just like their dear old dads, with cheerful innocence as if it’s all just part of the game, all just “top bantz” – never stopping to consider it could all end if they just made the fucking effort. Seven minutes, eh? The fucking cheek. Let’s make up a song…
Of course, there are many who embrace the campaign and always have, not just locally but from all over the world. But for some it seems beyond reason to support those who still fight for justice. It’s far easier to whine about it routinely as if it affects them in some injurious way. I can’t think of one discernible reason why it would do such harm, but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard someone say “I’m sick of having it rammed down my throat every year!” Oh, poor you. Poor fucking you. You haven’t had to remain silent for a whole fucking minute, have you? Well this is outrageous! How dare they demand this? Get on the internet at your earliest convenience and have a whinge about it. You could even suggest the families and the club accept some of the blame, followed by demanding they “just let it go”, without a single hint of irony. And they do, as if living their lives drenched from head to toe in apathy, with the deaths of loved ones not affecting them in any way whatsoever. They simply “let it go”, apparently.
Is that how easy it is? If someone you love went to a game of football and never returned, you’d just let it go? If people taunted you for still caring about them and told you they died because they were drunk and violent when you knew for sure that wasn’t true, you’d just let it go? If you knew your loved one could have been saved that day had those responsible for their safety acted that much quicker instead of just giving up, you’d just let it go? If, after 25 years of fighting, rival fans, journalists and pundits shouted you down and continued to spread lies about what really happened, you’d accept all of this and just let it go? Yeah, I’m not so sure, and if you’re honest neither are you. But it’s oh so easy to say you would, isn’t it?
“Those families lost loved ones and have spent 25 years fighting for this. They’re ordinary people like us, taking on the government and the police, and deserve more respect for it.”
– A Cardiff City fan sums it up superbly
It’s truly bewildering how football fans still don’t get how they’re viewed by the rest of society. It’s incredible how they fail to see that this is not simply about justice and closure for the families of those who died at Hillsborough 25 years ago – it’s about so much more than that. It’s about everyone. It’s about you. It’s about your children, and their children. It’s about the safety and the rights of your loved ones attending a simple game of football. It’s about standing up against those in power who decided to treat fans as hooligans rather than the innocent victims of a tragedy. It’s about making sure nothing like Hillsborough ever takes place again. This isn’t about tribal rivalry or sick ‘banter’ between fans. It’s time to put an end to all of it. This could have happened anywhere, to any club, at any time, and the message would still be the same – this should never have happened, and every declaration of dismay at having to hear about it, or pointing the finger in the wrong direction to win a petty, faceless argument about football, plays right into their hands; helping prolong a reputation you don’t deserve, and one they’re only too happy you continue to have.
This has all been said before, and I confidently predict there will be those who end up reading this and taking it apart, bit by bit, joyfully, mockingly, as if taking pleasure in being obtuse because they support a rival club. But if I can change the views of just one then it’ll have been worth the time, without question. Just ask yourself: Do you know if your football club’s ground has an up to date safety certificate? Do you know how many stewards are supposed to be inside the ground on a match day? Do you know how quickly paramedics can be on the scene should you need help? Do you know for certain you’re going to be safe? Of course you don’t. You simply trust those responsible for your safety to know all of those things, and you take it for granted each and every time you pass through the turnstiles and take your seat. And that’s all the 96 who died on April 15th, 1989 did too. They trusted those responsible for their safety and they never came home, and nobody’s ever been held to account for that. So if you think that’s something to laugh about; spread inaccuracies and lies about; use in songs, chants, and arguments; and you think the families of those who died should simply drop the whole thing and “let it go”, forever accepting the blame lay at the feet of their loved ones… well, what the fuck is wrong with you? Perhaps you should take a minute – or seven – to think about it.