Football is quite clearly the national past time of the British. Every weekend hundreds of thousands of people pour into stadiums, to watch their heroes decked in the colours of their chosen team. Sons mingle with fathers, mothers get rare time with their whole family that their partner or children won’t complain about, friends forget their troubles for a few hours.
People do this, not just because of their love for the sport, nor their wonder at the tension and joy played out on the pitch, but also because, like every major event, they trust that they will be kept safe, along with all of these people that they attend it with. That trust is such a small, but hugely important thing. We as a society, build almost everything on trust. Without it, we would all stay inside, lock our doors and never venture for anything but sustenance. Quite often, that trust is placed on the men and women of the emergency services and that when called upon, they will be there to protect and help us, even if it means giving their own lives in the process.
Imagine leaving for a football match, excited at the theatre the day promised, but it being routine enough to be like any other? You don’t say you love your mother. You maybe don’t see your wife because she is at work, because it’s safe in your mind. You trust you will be home to do any number of all those things again. You trust someone to take care of you when you get to the game. You’re so busy living, death is not ever a thought.
96 people never came home on that exciting, but ultimately routine day of April 15th, 1989. We now know the truth of course, that the trust they placed in someone, somewhere to keep them safe at the game, was not rewarded with their lives.
The astonishing mistakes that led to their deaths, were only exacerbated by the impending lies and smears that firmly pointed the blame at the innocent dead. Their fellow fans were branded “animalistic” – The Sun newspaper effectively compared them to war criminals. Accused of urinating on police officers, picking pockets of victims and beating those trying to save lives.
I’ve never known the pain of someone I care about dying in such a manner and nor do I either wish to. I’m truly lucky to be able to make that statement, as are most people. It would shatter all of our existences.
To then find the strength to fight back against those slurs, to even be able to get up and make a cup of tea every morning, is a feat that is difficult to surpass.To have to do that for 24 years, is torturous. Yet, the phrase “Justice For The 96” is one that every football fan, and those beyond the sport, are aware of. That is down to the campaigning families of those 96 dead people.
It is a beautiful life lesson, borne out of horror- that if you scream and shout loud enough,and if you don’t back down in the face of adversity, the truth will out. You will win.
That is not always the case of course. It is frightening how the power of the establishments in this world, can silence and destroy the will of the many. However, a victory of this magnitude stirs the soul and should provide fortitude, for anyone who faces anything of this sickening manner ever again.
Bravery, true bravery, is very rarely shown. This was not running into a fire to save someone, in the knowledge that death was what really awaited behind those flames. Yet, it required the same courage of a super human level. Every year, people flock to the cinema to look at those qualities exhibited on a silver screen, but if we look hard enough, it can be in our own world, waiting to inspire us.
The superheroes we need to protect us from evil, are sometimes waiting in the wings, with just their voice for a power. Every single one of those who campaigned should pass into folklore, because their actions should be the inspiration that ensures no football pitch should ever be cloaked in wreaths ever again. To use a football analogy, this was a wondrous victory, snatched from the most unforgiving jaws of defeat.
Whatever your teams colour, whatever your allegiance, if you ever meet anyone of those people who secured it, treat them like the superhero they are.
Paul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff