264 months of pain. 22 years of heartache. Over two decades of lies and injustice.
The dark shadow of Hillsborough lies over Liverpool just as prominently and poignantly as on that fateful April day in 1989, when 96 innocent Liverpool fans died supporting the team they loved. It is woven into the very fabric of the club, lurking ominously in the background, reminding us of our fellow fans taken so cruelly and pre-maturely that day and providing a sobering backdrop of much needed perspective to all footballing activities.
Football is important. For many it is a fundamental part of their lives, with countless hours spent watching, playing and talking about the beautiful game and its intriguing intricacies. However, Hillsborough horrifically confirmed that it most certainly isn’t “more important than life and death”, as the late great Bill Shankly once, admittedly jokingly, claimed.
When 96 families are told of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers crushed to death painfully and needlessly football is forgotten and the suffering endured by so many on Merseyside takes prominence. The lives lost, families broken and the inevitably resulting anguish have served to foster a spirit of unity in disaster and togetherness in tragedy, the likes of which are rarely seen within any other group of supporters across the face of the globe.
It is this spirit of unity that sets Liverpool out as unique, and defines the Liverpool Way at the heart of the club. The progress made towards gaining justice for the 96 following our 22-year long battle against the anxious authorities would not be possible without the strength of feeling and depth of character ingrained within and permeating throughout the Reds’ global fan base after enduring such a terrible disaster.
With the early release of top-secret documents regarding the Hillsborough tragedy a significant step towards justice has been made, but the fight and struggle will not stop until all our questions receive honest answers and those responsible for the horrific deaths of 96 Reds and the disgraceful following cover-up, namely South Yorkshire police, are held to account.
The boycott of the S*n newspaper also demonstrates both the passion amongst Liverpool fans and the nous possessed in order to hit the paper where it most hurts; their metaphorical pocket.
On Merseyside, newsagents struggle to sell a single copy of the newspaper now considered to be a cuss word by most Reds fans. Throughout the country Liverpool supporters won’t touch Murdoch’s rag, with many ‘out-of-towners’ reprimanding fellow fans for lining the pockets of those who printed vile and abhorrent lies only days after the Hillsborough disaster, pouring scorn on the memory of the 96, causing yet more grief for their families and provoking a fiery backlash from outraged Liverpool supporters.
Hillsborough has not only made an impact on both the city of Liverpool and the football club within, it has also affected the national game, with all-seater stadia now rightly a legal requirement for top-level clubs. The Football Supporters’ Federation’s campaign for “safe-standing” sections within stadia seems to be gathering momentum, however it has been condemned by Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) and, with the memory of Hillsborough still fresh in the minds of Liverpool fans, it is unlikely to receive much support on Merseyside.
Even the remote possibility of another footballing disaster comparable to Hillsborough should be enough to dispel any arguments in favour of allowing standing to return.
With the 22nd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster arriving next Friday the 96 will be commemorated in another highly emotional service at Anfield. The tragic effect of their untimely deaths will be mourned and the wider ramifications of the horrific events of that day will be remembered.
The fight for justice will also continue, the S*n will still be boycotted and the all-seater stadia that fans enter every weekend will serve as a stark reminder of 15th April 1989, when football fans where killed watching their team play in an FA Cup semi final.
The long, dark shadow of Hillsborough remains over Liverpool FC.