Hillsborough; never forget

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On 11 April 1989, I attended an FA cup quarter final between Millwall and Liverpool, at the Den. It was a horrible stadium with fans penned right up against the wire, including what seemed to be razor-tipped circular saws, rotating in the wind above our heads. They were the days when football was just another leisure activity: a game you could watch without paying more than £10, something you could just show up to without booking in advance.
 
I found myself talking to a man in his early 60s, who told me he was a former amateur referee. He was kind and generous; he saw me as a young fan attending a match alone, and took me under his wing.

The following game was Hillsborough. I remember watching the pictures as they unfolded. What I saw, and what I still see in all the pictures, is the countless tiny acts of human solidarity; the fans (as above) who tried to lift strangers out of the crush, the doctors who rushed on to the fields to volunteer. I didn’t see, although I could half-sense, the hostility of many officers to the dying fans, and the complete failure of the official health services, the ambulance service, etc, etc, to do anything useful at all.

I also recall reading in the papers that among those killed was John Anderson, aged 62, described by the papers as … a former amateur referee.

Looking back on the events of 23 years ago I have no way of knowing whether it was John Anderson who I had met just a week before. What I do know is that his death brought home to me just how close I too had been to tragedy.

And I am also certain that every football fan in the 80s, whatever team you supported, was treated like an animal by the clubs, and nobody was more than two or three pieces of intertwined bad luck away from being caught in something like Hillsborough.

I am not surprised to learn that senior police officers altered their colleagues’ statements, on a massive scale, to protect the force. But I am truly shocked by the new evidence that with proper medical care 41 of the 96 would have lived.

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