Forget the badge… it might have been you on that tragic day at Hillsborough
21:57 GMT, 14 September 2012
21:57 GMT, 14 September 2012
It has taken 23 years to blow apart the most cynical, sickeningly orchestrated cover-up by this country's Establishment since the Second World War.
It has taken 23 years to demonstrate once and for all that 96 people did not die behind metal fences at a football match because they behaved like animals, or wild thugs, or drunken hooligans.
It has taken 23 years to confirm Hillsborough was a grand conspiracy involving incompetent police chiefs, rank and file officers, sections of a compliant media, politicians, members of the Civil Service and, quite possibly, even a former Prime Minister.
Respect: Liverpool players and fans observe a minutes silence on the 23rd anniversary of Hillsborough
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It has taken 23 years for the people of Liverpool to hear confirmation of what they saw with their own eyes. That 164 officers' statements were tampered with. That the dead, including children, were tested for alcohol. That criminal-record checks were carried out on the deceased in the hope of finding incriminating 'evidence' to support a series of calculated smears.
It has taken 23 years to hear the Government admit 41 of the 96 people killed that day could have been saved if the police and emergency services had not made a series of incredible blunders.
That loss of life was abominable, but then to try to disguise the causes, maliciously discredit the grieving families, trash a city, a people and an entire country of football supporters in the process is inhuman beyond belief. It makes you despair for the realities of democracy and governance in this land.
Remember amid all the apologies and official crocodile tears that 'The Truth' sat in a locked filing cabinet for 23 years, hidden from view. Remember, too, that none of this would have come to light, even now, were it not for the determination, righteous anger and resolute desire for justice from the families of victims and Hillsborough campaigners.
Now, we look back and wonder how it was ever allowed We marvel at how far the game has come. But in eight days there is an opportunity to take another step forward.
In eight days, there is a chance to salvage a sliver of humanity from the wreckage of that day when Liverpool face Manchester United at Anfield.
Next Sunday a global audience of half a billion people, from Sydney to Sao Paulo, from Seattle to Shanghai, will tune in for the most highly-charged club game of the season. Typically, the match also happens to be a TV sound engineer’s nightmare as the crowd exchanges their horrible insults.
A United contingent chant about the Hillsborough Disaster. A section of Liverpool supporters have their own vile ditty, mocking the Munich Air Crash.
It’s a depressing cycle of hatred and nothing more than a public celebration of death. One side justifies their evil chorus by pointing at the other, saying: 'they do it, so we do it back'. The same warped logic is in play with the bile aimed at Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez by the opposing camps.
But the English game has an opportunity to display some inherent decency here, it has a chance to make another tiny, but significant change.
Tragedy: The fate which befell the Liverpool fans could have easily been another English team
As Sir Matt Busby’s family, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson, Brendan Rodgers, Robbie Fowler, and countless other figures from Old Trafford and Anfield have said, 'it's time to stop the abuse'.
Many of the United fans forget it could easily have been supporters of their club at Hillsborough that day. Had United beaten Nottingham Forest in the quarter-final, they would have faced Liverpool in Sheffield. They might have been in the Leppings Lane stand. They might have arrived early with their children. They might have paid for their good timekeeping by watching the breath crushed out of them.
That’s how easy it is to empathise with others who have suffered loss. Look past the badge on the shirt. Imagine it could have been your family, your friends, your club colours there that day, then try to laugh at your 'harmless song'.
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In April, I was ashamed to be proved right on this page when I said Chelsea fans were preparing to boo the minute’s silence held in memory of the Hillsborough dead at the FA Cup semi-final.
Others bristled at recent comparisons between football's enduring hostility and the Olympic crowds. Apparently, football fans hurl abuse because they 'care more', as if that was ever an excuse. Are we to accept people chanting about Heysel, the Bradford fire, the Holocaust, or paedophilia, because they ‘care’
In eight days, football has a moment to recover its decent heart; to prove more has changed in 23 years than the introduction of seats, prawn sandwiches in the executive lounge and an absence of cages. It can show attitudes have changed, too.
Of course, nobody was ever killed by a vile word or a disgusting song. On a sunny day in Sheffield they were killed by bad policing and by metal fences. But it won’t kill anybody to show respect for the dead this weekend, either. Or in eight days. Or 23 years after that, too.
Let football do the talking: Rooney was the hero for United when the two teams met last February
A new job for Tyson
Mike Tyson has conquered most things in a turbulent life, with the exception of the letter 'S'.
Now the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, convicted rapist, ear–biter, tattooist’s doodle pad and surprisingly misunderstood human being says he wants to 'sing and dance in musicals'.
Iron Mike certainly has a thespian streak. He played an amusing cameo role in the movie The Hangover. He has also tackled comedy sketches, such as a spoof of the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech on Jimmy Kimmel Live in the USA.
Tyson played the role of George W Bush’s vocal coach, reciting lines from Hamlet, rolling a Bush lookalike along the floor and performing voice exercises mocking his trademark lisp.
'Eloquenth!' he yells, before telling the bumbling former President he is 'the wortht thtudent in the hithtory of speeching!'
Tyson seems to have come through his destructive, sometimes despicable past, and now he can take a joke — or even be the joke.
The boxer might actually thrive on stage. If Frank Bruno can tread the boards then a pantomime season beckons at the very least. Imagine the fear on hearing Tyson is ‘behind you’ Just so long as his theatrical pretensions don’t extend to Mary Poppins, because A Spoonful of Sugar would be excruciating.
And as for Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious…
Singing and dancing: Tyson's career could be heading in a new direction
Sterling's no senior
Ever wondered why there are constant club versus country conflicts
Having fast-tracked 17-year-old Raheem Sterling into the Liverpool side, manager Brendan Rodgers urged caution on hearing the lad might be called up for the England Under 21 squad.
'I spoke to Trevor Brooking at the FA. In many ways it is right for him to go with the Under 19s,' he said. 'The reality is this is a kid who has made great strides over the last few weeks. Let's stay calm,' said the Anfield boss. Quite.
The FA and manager Roy Hodgson responded to Rodgers’ entirely sensible plea by leaving Sterling out of the Under 21s. And sticking him in the senior squad instead.
The Paralympics cash was money well spent
Apparently it’s bogus to mention that the four years of funding given
to the Team GB Paralympians is equivalent to Wayne Rooney’s salary over
the same period.
Frankly, I’m not massively animated by the scale of Rooney’s wages. He
can play the market for whatever it offers and be judged accordingly.
The point of the contrast was to highlight the Paralympic cheque wasn’t
such an outrageous amount when you consider the wider benefits of
funding the Games.
But one counter-argument offered up was that, unlike the Paralympians,
Rooney is taxed at 50 per cent — so the country is actually millions up
on the deal.
If anyone out there actually believes Rooney is paying the full 50 per
cent tax on his wages and doesn’t have a team of clever accountants
working on ways to reduce or limit his liability, then I’m the Governor
of the Bank of England.
Gold standard: The Paralympics were an enormous success – but Rooney is unlikely to have copped the bill
Owen's biggest gamble
Never mind Stoke City, Michael Owen took the biggest gamble of his
career when he decided to appear on ITV’s All Star Mr and Mrs.
Only a brave man (brave, in this case, being a euphemism for dumb) would
slap his nuptials on the table for TV. And following cringeworthy
revelations that he had never made a cup of tea or coffee in his life,
or ironed a shirt, he was asked who looked better for their age: was it
him or his delightful wife, Louise
Owen promptly voted for himself, missing the easiest open goal he’s ever had.
Hair raising Rooney
IN a supremely dull autobiography, Wayne Rooney describes what it is
like to be on the end of one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary 'hairdryer' tirades. He says: 'It feels like I’ve put my head in front
of a BaByliss Turbo Power 2200. It’s horrible.'
Does anyone else think Rooney has recently got himself a new hairdryer, for some reason