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07
Dec 2011
14:04
What Istanbul Laid to Rest

General Articles

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.