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Dec 2011
14:04 Comments (10)
What Istanbul Laid to Rest

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Juanma Morán

As everyone well knows, Liverpool FC is a club scarred by two tragedies, Heysel and Hillsborough. Even though the former was in football terms a bit pointless, we have to discuss it to understand why Liverpool fans are so grateful to Rafa Benitez. In the 80's the team from Anfield was an almost unrivalled force both domestically and internationally. The best players always played at Anfield and trophies were won year after year. However all that came to an end one night in May 1985. Death meant that the winning streak had come to an end. It was in the European Cup Final, the Red's favourite competition. Stupid hooligans caused the deaths of 39 fans who were only there for the match. Nick Hornby, in his book "Fever Pitch" says that the incident could have happened to any group of fans at any match in Britain as there was a ridiculous tradition in the more radical sections of English fans of trying to occupy the territory of opposing fans. Whatever happened, what is certain is the effect it had on Liverpudlians who lost some of their competitiveness. From then on, every time there was a bit of trouble at a sporting event, people harked back to the lamentable shame of Heysel.

And so it was, season after season, until Rafa Benitez arrived. A few months after the Madrid coach took charge of the 'Boot Room' they once again won the trophy with the 'big ears'. When the ref blew the final whistle on that miraculous night having pulled back a 3 goal Milan lead to finish winners in an unequal contest, everyone who loved Liverpool cried. They were tears of joy. Suddenly those bitter nights when the scoreline went against them, like at Crystal Palace, West Ham or Leeds United all made sense. But there were also tears of relief. Because suddenly people realised that never again would the first thing uttered be "if only Heysel hadn't happened". No. In the future if there would be a point in history which kick-started things, it would be Istanbul. No doubt. 20 years erased in an instant. And thanks to Rafa, the guy who gave back to a legendary club its rightful place that it should never have lost.

When critics say that the coach's big mistake was to start with a win as big as that, it's obvious that they haven't understood the impact of the tragedy from a collective point of view. For those who feel for the club, the guy is legendary for achieving this as well as many other things. For having managed to lay to rest a most damaging and destructive chapter in its long football history. And they will be grateful for it whenever they get the chance, whatever happens.

10 Comments Send us your opinions
07/12/11 at 22:32:07 #1
Yes, a lot of relief, certainly in me. We were back where we belong. And we knew that there would be many many more great nights. And there certainly were.

Come on, Kenny, beg, borrow, or steal points, please, please, we have just got to make the top 4. I cannot stand another season without Champions League.

07/12/11 at 23:49:36 #2
Michael Perry
''even though in football terms was abit pointless'' Almost straight away you dive into offending people with a poor choice of words.
You could argue fans didn't cause the deaths and the danger stricken wall that ultimately lost its integrity and collapsed did. Even leading upto this point wasa case of cause and effect as the catalyst was juve fans provocation initially. Never the less Liverpool took responsibility for their part and officially and at ground level made their heart felt apologies, well noted as accepted.Rather than a grevience ,liverpool juventus relations are on godo terms as demonstrated in a recent encounter.
You mention that it some how phsychologically lost an edge on LFC with no basis. in the league they were arguably the finest attacking force in LFC history and continental success was only limited to the european ban.
''and so it was season on season until rafa arrived'' again not true as only years earlier they done the treble..
07/12/11 at 23:58:37 #3
Michael Perry
People will always say, if only heysil didn't happen, not only OR LEAST to prevent the loss of life, but because it represents a time period where there was a very real potential to accuminate a large number of trophies.
''A point in history that kick started things'' sorry this will and will always be the period of shankly, how can it be the start of rafas period when we have already went down hill into mid table obscurity since?

On the whole i get confused as to why the tragedies are laid to rest from winning the champions league as suggested as it seems unrelated. The period of the not winning a trophy was a result of dalglish in part leaving, and sounness destroying the club with shocking management, coupled with Manchesters unriveled finances(90's). So i have to admit i think this is a unique view point rather than one enlarge.
08/12/11 at 01:26:46 #4
istanbul was magical in the sense that it brought lfc a major trophy and put them back on centre stage of the footballing world. for that rafa deserves praise. but i think this blog is misjudged. heysel and hillsborough caused people to grieve and caused feelings which will never rest regardless of footballing achievement.
08/12/11 at 13:44:07 #5
The article is correct in saying we had a barren period of 20 years in europe after Heysel,this after dominating europe for years before Heysel and being the best.Apart from the uefa cup we had nothing to cheer in europe we were lost with no way of ever getting back to the top.When Rafa took over he won the champions league and i still get goose bumps now when i think of this final,Rafa took us from nowhere in europe the previous 20 years to kings of europe which is were we were used to being before Heysel.The article is only pointing out due to Heysel we were no longer a force in europe for 20 years which is correct,when Rafa won the champions league it made us champions of europe again and gave us our place back as the best team in europe,it also wiped away 20 years of struggles in footballing terms in europe in one go.Craig L.
08/12/11 at 16:23:21 #6
I think that this article hits the nail on the head where our success on the pitch is concerned since Heysl.

Why were we such a dominant force in the 70s and 80s ? I believe it is mainly because we dominated Europe during that period, and specifically the European Cup. And not the other way around.

Between 1990 and 2005, the best we could muster was a QF appearance in the CL, 1 UEFA Cup, 2 FAC, 1 LC, and runner-up in the EPL. That's 4-5 highlights in 15 years !! Neither was there any form of consistency. We never counted QF and SF appearances before !!

Istanbul reawakened that hunger and the yearning for those lost magical nights. This win was a massive boost to our confidence, the sleeping giant awoke, and this immense surge of self-belief once again translated to consistency on the pitch on all fronts. That is the significance of Istanbul, that is the significance of Rafa.
10/12/11 at 01:19:54 #7
I will always love Rafa for what he did for us and I will never forgive Purslow THicks and Gillett for terminating his contract. One day I hope he comes back. Rafa, if you're reading this then please can you publicise these e-petitions regarding Hillsborough 1989.


14/12/11 at 13:13:49 #8
Rafa took LFC back to the top. Not just winning the Chapmions League, but creating fear in other teams. We beat Juve, Milan, Real Madrid, Barca etc. up to 2009 we were the most feared opponent.

Our real problem were the American owners. Rafa was removed and the whole of LFC paid a HEAVY price..

Rafa all the best.
08/01/12 at 17:55:46 #9
David Curran
Rafas legacy will rightly be remembered fo that fantastic night in Istanbul and indeed the games that lead to it, unfortunately due to circumstances beyond his control he lost his way as the manager of LFC but to his eternal credit he never lost his way as a man, epitomised by his reaction at last years Hillsborough service, and he is rightly held in high regard by most LFC fans to this day, and its obvious that the feeling is mutual. Liverpool as a club could do far worse than offering the job of "Global Embassador" to Rafa, a job which seems to have disappeared since Kenny Dalglish relinquished it on his reappointment as manager. Football as a sport is better for the participation of Rafa and Liverpool as a club and a city is better for his involvement - YNWA
23/01/12 at 09:09:20 #10
MR 18&5
Rafa will always be remembered for this night, no doubt. This put us back on the map, from nowhere we became the most feared team in europe, nobody wanted to draw us in the CL. No disrespect to our players, but it definately wasnt the likes of, le tallec, pongolle, mellor, traore, biscan, kewell, cisse and baros that had every team in europe running scared......it was a combination of belief and the masterclass that is senor Benitez.......in theory we had no right to win that competition............but we are Liverpool Football Club........Rafa helped all of us to beleive and remember wot that meant! YNWA!