A day before the big semifinal clash between Roma and Liverpool, Roma players gathered around the Hillsborough Memorial to pay their respects to the 96 victims who left for a football match, and never returned. It was a gracious and classy move by the Serie A outfit, and an example for their supporters to follow. Unfortunately, not all of their supporters got the message.
Merseyside Police were called to Albert public house a mere ten minutes before kickoff, following reports of an assault on a 53-year-old Irish Liverpool fan. The man was reportedly beaten with a belt by two Roma supporters in their mid-twenties, and has been listed in critical condition at Walton Neurological Centre. The two suspects were arrested shortly thereafter within the Anfield grounds.
Liverpool Football Club has released the following statement about the incident:
Liverpool Football Club is shocked and appalled after a Liverpool supporter was left in a critical condition having been attacked prior to the Champions League fixture against AS Roma.
Our thoughts, in the first instance, are with the victim and his family at this very traumatic time. We will be offering them our full support.
The club has been liaising with the emergency services since the incident occurred and will continue to do so.
Liverpool FC directs supporters and those in attendance at the game to Merseyside Police’s appeal for information. Click here to view it.
Since Hillsborough, a core belief by those at and around the club is that no one should go to a football match in fear of violence, injury, or loss of life. For at least one supporter last night, the rare chance to experience Anfield on a Champions League semifinal night was taken away from him, and in brutal fashion. Incidents like this, and the reports of racist chants toward Liverpool supporters, shows just how far we have yet to go.
Of course, Liverpool fans have been no saints during this European run so far, as highlighted by the coach greeting gone awry against Manchester City.
Although these incidents are perpetrated by the minority, it is on all of us to stand up for our fellow humans, regardless of the color of their shirt or skin, and make sure a game of football is precisely that—a game—and not a matter of life and death.