Anfield’s poignant tribute to the Hillsborough families can inspire the Reds, 25 years after Britain’s darkest hour claimed 96 lives, writes David Kelly.
Sports fans from right across the globe are being asked to donate scarves to this year’s memorial service, taking place at Liverpool’s ancestral home on April 15th, in a show of solidarity and global unity.
Supporters, regardless of code, are being urged to send their submissions, along with a personal message, before the 8th of April. Together, the scarves will form a ‘96’ backdrop, representing both the families’ struggle for justice and their harrowing loss.
Liverpoolfc.com reports that Kenny Dalglish has written to 92 English clubs and several international sides, seeking their support to mark the anniversary. The Scot was player-manager at the time of the disaster, and knows all too well the devastating impact it had on the city, the people, and the club. His outfit somehow found the strength to win the FA Cup Final that year, an all Merseyside affair, and the league was captured in 1990 for the last time. If Brendan Rodgers’ charges are to break that duck and reach title number 19, they must draw inspiration from the dignified battle of the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) over the last quarter of a century.
If ever a person embodied a cause, that person would be Hope for Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams, who lost her 15-year-old son, Kevin, at Sheffield. Anne died from cancer several days after the 24th anniversary, continuing to fight for her loved one, even in the days leading up to her own passing. Her selfless dedication ensured the 3:15 cut-off point was discredited, with information alleging Kevin died at 4pm. Her memory will live on through Dominic Dunn’s release of ‘The Angel’, a charity single remembering the woman behind the struggle.
April’s ceremony will be given added significance because of the Attorney-General’s decision to quash the original inquests, paving the way for fresh hearings next Monday. 2012 was a watershed moment for relatives, friends, and survivors, with the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s Report. The document disproves claims that fans were to blame, citing serious and fatal shortcomings on the part of the FA, South Yorkshire Police and emergency services, amongst others. The 395 page file also shows that vexatious attempts were made to smear Liverpool fans by officers within SYP, and some statements critical of the force were altered. Background checks and blood alcohol tests were carried out on the deceased, a deliberate ploy to deflect blame, it added.
“Some 116 of the 164 statements identified for substantive amendment were amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to SYP,” the paper reads.
On the back of the report, The Sun published an apology, saying it was “profoundly sorry for false reports”. The tabloid had originally claimed that Liverpool supporters had been drunk, robbed the dead, and attacked emergency responders and police, remarks that sadly continue to be fuelled even today, and have become jibes to throw at Reds followers away from home. The Mirror reported such taunts at Liverpool’s clash with United at the weekend, a sad indictment on the level some football fans will go to get one over on their rivals. Equally, chants about Munich are disgraceful and have no place in today’s game. Clubs need to work harder to eliminate offensive behaviour, instead of trying to defend or say they didn’t hear it.
Liverpool need look no further than their own talisman for inspiration. Steven Gerrard’s 10-year-old cousin, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, died at Hillsborough. The one club wonder recently made a five-figure donation to support the Hillsborough Family Support Group. The football community have also done their part, rallying behind the Liverpudlians. Everton, Celtic, Rangers, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund and countless others, have pledged their support through fund appeals and displays, as have fans at home and abroad. The Irishkop recently held a football tournament, with proceeds going to the HJC. Deeds like that set the club apart. Sometimes it seems as if Liverpool is not only a brotherhood, but a family of sorts.
The Reds host high-flying Manchester City on April 13th, and while one would hope that thoughts of the 96 never subside, it’s important to remember and celebrate the lives of 96 brothers and sisters, each and every one of them unique. What better way than to win the Premier League in their honour, and ensure the eternal flame shines in all its glory. Justice is finally coming, but not a moment too soon.
For more details on the 25th anniversary service, see Liverpool FC’s official website.