Janet Yoxall discusses the incredible bond formed between Liverpool and Everton supporters in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
No one can tell you what it’s like to stand on the terraces with your favourite scarf singing,“You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
The intense passion that builds up inside you, so much so you become involved, to the point that you are deeply engrossed in the Anfield roar abusing the opposition. You’re part of an army of fans which unites as one for their beloved club and curses opposing teams throughout the entire ninety minutes of a match.
This rivalry is heightened in a Merseyside derby, where city bragging rights long after the final whistle are of the utmost importance. In Liverpool, Anfield and Goodison are only separated by Stanley Park, with families living together as Liverpool or Everton fans under one roof. Therefore, to claim the bragging rights is an essential part of our football culture.
This a part of our custom which is second nature to a club like Liverpool. Honour is key for fans that will defend their club like they would their own flesh and blood.
Players on the pitch are often so pumped up for the derby clash that some lose their heads. Many a red card has been shown; needless to say the player leaving the pitch has his head hung in shame for that split second of madness. Although disappointed to be losing one of their own, fans cheer the tackle which has been dangerous.
This bitterness within the rivalry continues in the pubs, cabs, cafes, wherever and whenever the opportunity arises to remind others your team won.
Disaster can and do change perspective. Just look at the Hillsborough disaster. It is a prime example of such a stark alteration in attitude.
A disaster where 96 innocent football fans went to a match and never came home. No one can prepare you for such tragedy. So why did the events at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield on the 15th of April 1989, where Liverpool was playing Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final, unite so many?
There was an out pouring of grief and solidarity in the days, months and years that followed which continues to this day. What was it that changed a city divided by sport, to stand side by side and arm in arm with each other? The commitment to become one voice which captured the nation and the world’s media in reporting it.
We witnessed families who had lost loved ones support each other. Both clubs and players met the families. Fans sent out a message, loud and clear that the 96 will never be forgotten. It was a coming together and an incredible bond that has weathered twenty seven years.
Why is it that grief breaks down the barriers between rivals when disaster strikes? In an instant it puts everything into perspective. Nothing else is relevant, nothing else matters, nothing is ever going to be the same again. There will always be another football match but for the families who lost loved ones, their pain will never go away.
Grief is an emotional state brought on by death or disaster. Often those grieving will have heightened sense of a need to talk, or seek justifications; others feel isolated or choose to grieve alone. Remarkably Hillsborough forced the families to find courage and positivity with a degree of intensity many could not imagine. From despair came fortitude. From one voice to a formidable army of voices.
Hillsborough to this day is one of the most devastating sporting disasters ever and by its very magnitude is on an epic scale. Out of sorrow has come love where once there was hatred. The result is a community who found its voice and fought for justice to exposed the lies of the establishment.
Featured Image – Liverpool Echo