Families still waiting on Juve: Heysel victim’s son

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.

Families still waiting on Juve: Heysel victim's son
Rescuers and policemen searching for victims at Heysel football stadium in Brussels in 1985. Photo: AFP Photo/Dominique Faget

“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.

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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Five reasons why Juventus have won their eighth straight Serie A title

Italian giants Juventus claimed an eighth consecutive Serie A title on Saturday after a 2-1 win at home against Fiorentina.Here are five factors that helped the Turin giants lift a 35th Scudetto with five matches to spare, equalling the record for the earliest any team has won Serie A:

Five reasons why Juventus have won their eighth straight Serie A title
Photos: AFP

Ronaldo effect

Cristiano Ronaldo was signed from Real Madrid for 100 million euros ($112 million) before the start of the season, in a bid to end the Turin giants' 23-year wait for the Champions League trophy.

The 34-year-old left Real as their all-time top scorer, a record he also holds in the Champions League where he is the only player to have won five titles.

Despite their European exit to Ajax, the Portuguese superstar was a key player throughout the campaign with 19 league goals.

Both Juventus' Serie A defeats came in his absence — 2-0 to Genoa on March 17 and 2-1 to SPAL on April 13 — the latter frustrating their bid to wrap up the title with a record six games to spare.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who was defended by Juve last year after being accused of rape, was slow off the mark, having to wait until their fourth game against Sassuolo before scoring a double in a 2-1 win.

“Cristiano is the future of Juventus, he has had an extraordinary season,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri after the Champions League loss.

Rising star Kean

Teenage sensation Moise Kean burst through during Ronaldo's absence through injury, scoring six goals in the last seven matches for Juventus, having played just nine this season.

The 19-year-old, who provides an alternative to Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala up front, admitted: “I learn from Cristiano Ronaldo in training, I steal his secrets.”

Born in Italy to Ivorian parents, his first league appearance this season was just four minutes away against Fiorentina on December 1, with his first goals a double in a 4-1 win over Udinese on March 3.

Controversy overshadowed his only full match for the champions when he was subjected to racist abuse against Cagliari on April 2.

The youngster hit back by scoring in Sardinia and again in the following game against SPAL.

Bonucci back

Leonardo Bonucci returned to Turin after an unhappy season at AC Milan to recreate the so-called 'BBC' defensive partnership alongside veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.

The absence of the trio through injury was felt when Juventus conceded six goals in two games including a 3-3 draw with Parma on February 2 — days after being eliminated from the Coppa Italia.

“Mr Bonucci and Mr Chiellini could teach lessons at Harvard University about how to be a central defender,” said Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho.

Juventus have conceded only 23 goals in 33 games, the best record in the division.

Safe hands

Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has proven to be a worthy successor to Juventus and Italy icon Gianluigi Buffon, who left for Paris Saint-Germain.

The ex-Arsenal player arrived in Turin in 2017 after falling down the pecking order at the Premier league club.

The 28-year-old got off to a stuttering start in the season opener, conceding two goals in a 3-2 win at Chievo, but has conceded only 15 goals in the 24 times he has played so far this season.

New arrival Mattia Perin, who joined from Genoa last summer, has proved less effective with eight conceded in nine games, and was between the posts for both their league defeats.

Winning ugly

Massimiliano Allegri doesn't mind winning ugly as he claimed his fifth league title in as many years with Juventus, and sixth in Serie A after leading AC Milan to their last title in 2011.

Allegri — who has now won 11 trophies with Juventus — has strenuously defended his team's often-criticised style of play, despite Juve leading the way in the Italian top flight with 67 goals scored.

“Beautiful football doesn't pay off, at the end of the day you've got to just kick it away from your goal,” the 51-year-old fumed after the draw with Parma.

“They need to realise there is no shame in hoofing the ball into the stands if needs be.”