January 19, 2021

Inside the Heysel Stadium Disaster That Took the Lives of 39 Fans — Here's What Happened

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Thirty-five years after the Heysel Stadium tragedy which claimed 39 lives, football fans worldwide reminisce on the dark events of the eighties.

The 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster remains a scar in the hearts of football fanatics, especially those who experienced the sad happenings.

One eyewitness to the tragic event, Ed Vulliamy, gave his accounts, confirming drunken fans of the English club began the riots. He recounted:

"We saw the row of dead bodies and the whooping. I especially recall the Liverpool fans whooping."

Photo of a football stadium | Photo: Pexels


Records show that the events, which took place in May 1985, claimed the lives of 39 people. The victims were among tens of thousands of football fans that trooped into the stadium to watch the historic match between Liverpool and Juventus.

Another witness, Bruno Guariri, who lost his son in the riots, expressed his grief, saying: "At night, I suddenly awake and see it all again. Heysel: that word will drive me mad."


He recounted how the events played out from his arrival at the stadium to see the match as a special gift to his son, Alberto, to witnessing the English crash through the fence, sending the Juventus fans on a fleeing rampage.

While some of the victims were trampled to death by other fleeing parties, the majority lost their lives when the weakened fence gave way completely, crushing them underneath the pile of bricks.

Many hold a yearly memorial on May 29 to honor the football fans who lost their lives.


The tragedy led to the ban of all English clubs from playing in Europe for five years. A similar event happened four years later, during the 1989 FA cup semi-final in Hillsborough Stadium.

The match, played between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, ended in a fatal crash by a weakened fence, claiming 96 Liverpool fans' lives.

Alan Hansen, BBC Sport football expert, and former footballer, tried to draw a connection between both incidents, apportioning the authorities most of the blame. He noted:

"The one common denominator on both occasions was very poor organization."



Hansen also reflected on how the tragic happenings in the dark football era of the 80s were fast becoming a neglected history. According to him, the tragedy went from being a daily memory to a weekly one, then monthly, until it eventually faded from people's hearts.

For over three decades, football fanatics have strived to ensure that the event of the Heysel Stadium does not fade into the halls of history like most sad memories. 


To achieve that, many hold a yearly memorial on May 29 to honor the football fans who lost their lives. In May, the annual commemoration took place, as usual, to mark the 35th anniversary of the Heysel tragedy.

However, unlike in previous years, the ceremony witnessed a low turn out due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Notwithstanding, fans paid subtle tributes with remembrance plaques, in significant areas like the King Baudouin Stadium, now renamed after the 1985 tragedy, and on the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand at Anfield.