Monday, 13 April 2009

Perspective - lest we forget

Saturday's game was as poor as I expected it to be. When Andy Carroll's header looped into the back of the net I felt a outpouring of relief, but as the final whistle went reality well and truly bit. NUFC are still down amongst the bottom-feeders of the Premiership and likely to still be there at the end of this season. It comes to something when a 1-1 draw against Stoke City is treated as an earth-shattering breakthrough.

So, as is my wont, I stomped around yesterday in a state of mild depression, compensated only by the visual delights of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Feeling irrationally naffed off that it is quite likely that the team that I've supported for all my life are doomed and relegation will be the culmination of 10 years of slow decline and managerial incompetency. Then, yesterday evening everything was jolted into perspective.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a great one for radio listening a combination of spending far too much time on Britain's motorway network as well as enjoying getting a sports related fixed on at least a half hourly basis. Last night, I'd got the radio playing in the background and started listening to 'Hillsbrough Stories' on Radio Five Live. I was moved to stop doing whatever mundane task I'd been doing and sit, listen and absorb the pain that the people still feel 20 years later.

15th April 1989, 96 people went to a football game and never came back. No doubt on the morning of that game some of the Liverpool fans felt the same type of emotions that I feel before every game. The giddy mixture of anticipation, excitement, hope and belief. However, 96 of them ended up being suffocated and crushed to death because of appalling crowd control and lack of respect for human life by the so-called authorities. See here for more information.

Now, I wasn't there, I don't know anyone who lost a friend or family member at that match; so I'm not presumptuous enough to be able to understand what the families of the dead have had to experience since 1989. But, I do recall being at Filbert St (Leicester City's old ground) in the early 1990's trying to get out, and not having my feet on the ground but moving as 2000+ people tried to get through a passageway wide enough to fit two people side by side. I remember being very scared at that, and I wasn't in the slightest bit crushed.

So, whilst people (me included) whitter on about the lack of atmosphere at all seater stadia, at least the grounds like the one above (KC Stadium in Hull, if you are interested) mean that we get home after watching a football match. We need to be reminded that the alterations to these grounds and the removing of the fencing to pen in fans means that a tragedy like Hillsbrough can't happen again in this country. However, other countries are still learning the lessons.

The programme last night was a huge dose of perspective. Yes, I'll be disappointed if Newcastle United get relegated in May, but at least I'll be able to go to games next season - unlike those 96 folk who set out one sunny April morning to watch a game of two teams of men trying to kick a ball between a set of posts.

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