Families still waiting on Juve: Heysel victim's son

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Rescuers and policemen searching for victims at Heysel football stadium in Brussels in 1985. Photo: AFP Photo/Dominique Faget
08:41 CEST+02:00
Andrea Lorentini and his family have moved on from the personal tragedy of the Heysel disaster, but for them and many other victims' families, Juventus, and Italian football, have yet to follow.

"With Juventus, we've tried to promote the history of what happened - and when I mean the history, I mean telling the truth," Lorentini told AFP.

"But today, we're still waiting for Juventus to fully integrate the true events of Heysel -- including the behaviour of the club's players after the match -- into the club's history."

Lorentini, now the president of the 'Association For The Families Of Heysel Victims', was only three years old when his father Roberto died after rushing back into the stands of the "totally inadequate" stadium to help save a young boy lying on the ground.

He was one of 39 people who lost their lives that day.

Perhaps the real tragedy for his family is the fact Roberto, a doctor by training, had already pulled himself clear of the mayhem after a "first charge by English fans" before a selfless, final act of altruism lured him back towards his death.

"Having a medical background, he ran back in to help a boy lying in the stands," explained Lorentini.

After another charge by Liverpool fans, Roberto was crushed and never got back out, leaving a family fatherless, and a grandfather, Otello, without his only son.

Roberto's act of bravery earned him the Italian Silver Medal for Civil Courage, and helped the Lorentinis partially resolve the question of what might have been had the 31-year-old father stayed clear of the mayhem.

"I'm sure if you had told him he was going to leave behind a wife and a small child, certainly, he would have chosen to save himself," said Andrea.

"But he was an altruist, always trying to help people."  

And in the weeks after Heysel, Andrea's grandfather Otello began a "battle for the truth and justice" by founding the Association that would lead to the Brussels Court of Appeals holding UEFA partly responsible for the disaster, citing poor organisation of the match in a run-down stadium without regard for adequate security.

A twist of fate will see Juventus meet Barcelona in the Champions League final just a week after the disaster's 30th anniversary.

And although Lorentini has applauded recent efforts by Juventus president Andrea Agnelli to appease victims and their families, he says the Turin giants, and Italian football in general, have for too long pushed the truth and "embarrassment" of the events surrounding Heysel under the carpet.

"Agnelli has made positive steps" towards fully integrating the disaster into the club's history with a "first mass to commemorate Heysel in 2010", said Lorentini.

The club also has a space at the Juventus Museum which is dedicated to the memory of Heysel and fans last week unveiled an enormous black flag emblazoned with a +39 in white letters and a message of 'Rispetto' (Respect) underneath.

"I want to thank the fans for their beautiful gesture, it touched all of us," he added.

But, he added: "For 25 years Juventus forgot about it... to talk about Heysel would be to rob the club of their sporting achievement.

"In Italy, no one talks about Heysel. It's an uncomfortable tragedy that doesn't suit some people... it could heap scrutiny on UEFA, or the Belgian state, or Juventus. And that would not be convenient."

Many still believe the 1985 final, in light of the awful impact of the disaster prior to kick-off, should never have been played.

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Juventus also faced further criticism for celebrating in the middle of the pitch after their 1-0 win, returning to Turin a day later in a "festive mood", according to Andrea.

"Their behaviour was totally out of place... and in a way it has become an embarrassment for the club," he said.

A Juventus victory next week may be the antidote to the club suffering years of some of the blame for what has been termed "the darkest hour in the history of Uefa competitions".

But Andrea is not so sure.

"Juventus are in the final and that could be a sign of destiny, I don't know," he said.

"But even if they (Juventus) win, it's not going to cancel the memory of Heysel. And it won't necessarily mean that Juventus has finally come to terms with what happened."

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