Medical emergencies – a sign that football has become more humane

INCREASINGLY, football matches are being held up for an emergency in the stands, a supporter being taken ill or an accident causing play to be stopped while hi-vis jackets scurry around the seating areas. In the distant past, such hold-ups used to be a sign that crowd trouble in the form of fierce fighting between rival fans was in process. In the 1970s, no big match was complete without a surge of fans or a sudden huge gap appearing in the sea of humanity that once gathered on the terraces.

Today, games are being suspended while medical teams deal with the problem. It’s not just at the highest level, either, even non-league fixtures are being interrupted by an incident.

There are a number of reasons why this has become a common occurence. Since the Euro 2020 competition and the frightening sight of Denmark’s Christian Eriksen falling to the ground after suffering a cardiac arrest, people have been more aware of trauma and also the need to come to the aid of ill spectators. While some have expressed irritation about this, it is actually a sign of humane behaviour. Too often, people have almost stepped over somebody who is suffering or have looked the other way when homeless or poverty-stricken individuals have sat in the street pleading for help.

People have been sick at football since they first gathered in their hordes on vast concrete terraces or bolted together railway sleepers. As well as disasters such as Hillsborough, Heysel, Ibrox and Bolton, individuals have suffered heart attacks or seizures right back to the early years. We used to cram onto terraces that were so tight your feet rarely touched the ground and when the action was at your end, there were waves of movement that today look quite frightening. It is a wonder more people were not injured.

But when someone was taken ill, the game was rarely affected and it was merely seen as a moment of inconvenience to fans situated around the unfortunate individual.

If you consider the only medical facilities at any ground were the club’s physio/doctor and the voluntary service provided by St. John’s Ambulance, it was clear that spectator safety was something of a nice to have for many years. And the best they could offer was very basic treatment such as a dab of vinegar or TCP on a sting, a sticking plaster or a glass of water. I was stung by a Wasp at Northampton a few years ago and I felt a little odd after the incident. I went to see the St. John’s folk and they couldn’t give me anything because they were not allowed to dispense drugs.

Football doesn’t want to be seen to be ignoring somebody in peril, be it a small, personal trauma or something on a much broader scale. The game has embraced the spirit of virtue signalling over the past few years, out of a desire to produce good PR but also to portray clubs and players as more caring. This has gathered momentum with the welcome inclusion of more women at football matches.  You only need look at the average football crowd and the demographic has changed, and along with it has come a more accessible pastime. I have seen this at my local non-league club where just a few women have made a real difference. There’s less testosterone around these days.

Furthermore, the concern shown by clubs and their players when a spectator incident breaks out could just be a sign that the role played by fans is being more appropriately recognised. They are part of the event and therefore, if there’s a problem, proceedings are held up while it is sorted out. This has to be a positive. Perhaps the pandemic has created this, perhaps people are just more community minded.

It would be nice to think this is just the start of a wider movement where we no longer look the other way, or hope that somebody else will answer the call, when we see someone appealing for assistance. Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but in the football world, it may simply be the next step in the gentrification of the game.

Europe’s Champions: Juventus 1985

IT SEEMS amazing that it took until 1985 for Juventus to win their first European Cup. They had gone close prior to that,  losing 1-0 in both 1973 (Ajax) and 1983 (Hamburg), but they invariably under-achieved in the competition. Sadly, the achievement was overshadowed by the death of 39 Juventus fans in Brussels, caused by crowd violence involving Liverpool supporters. The match became almost incidental but in the aftermath, English clubs were banned from Europe until 1990.

At home in Italy, Juventus were the team of the 1970s through to the early 80s. After Giovanni Trapattoni was appointed manager in 1976, they won five Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias. Furthermore, they had won the UEFA Cup in 1977 and European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1984. From 1970, Juventus had won eight league titles versus two for Inter and one for AC Milan.

Juventus were a mature, star-studded team in 1984. Michel Platini, France’s captain, scored 20 goals in 28 games as Juve won the 1983-84 scudetto. Platini had joined the club in 1982 from Saint-Etienne and went on to win the Ballon d’Or in 1983 and 1984. To cap a great year, Platini also captained France to the European Championship, scoring no less than nine goals in five games, including two hat-tricks.

Juventus had won Serie A by a two-point margin in 1984, just edging out reigning champions Roma. They clinched the title on May 6, drawing 1-1 with Avellino in Turin’s Stadio Communale. Paulo Rossi, the hero of Italy’s 1982 World Cup triumph, scored the last of his 13 league goals to give Juve the lead.

Six members of the victorious 1982 Azzurri side came from Juve: Dino Zoff, Gatano Scirea, Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini Marco Tardelli and Rossi. All were part of the team that won the title in 1984, with Libya-born Gentile moving to Fiorentina in the summer of 1984. Trapattoni signed Avellino’s Luciano Favero as Gentile’s replacement. A powerful and versatile player, he slotted in nicely with the other mainstays of the Juve defence, Scirea and Cabrini, but never won a cap for Italy.

The Juve side was largely Italian, the only foreigners were Platini, Zbigniew Boniek (Poland) and Massimo Bonini (San Marino). Coach Trapattoni was an old campaigner when it came to European club competition – he was part of the AC Milan teams that won the European Cup in 1963 and 1969 and he had also coached the Rossoneri to the UEFA Cup in final in 1974.

The 1984-85 Italian domestic season had added spice in that Diego Maradona arrived at Napoli after leaving Barcelona. The expectation was enormous and created great excitement right across Italy. In addition, unfancied Verona went on to win their one and only scudetto. Verona beat Juventus early in the season 2-0 and it was clear that 1984-85 would be a tougher campaign for the champions. By Christmas, Juve were seven points behind Verona and were languishing in seventh place.

Away from the domestic front, Juve were already in the last eight of the European Cup, having beaten Finland’s Ilves (6-1 on aggregate) and Grasshopper Zurich (6-2) in the first two rounds. Liverpool, the holders, had squeezed past Benfica in the second round after easily disposing of Lech Poznań. The rest of the last eight looked quite weak compared to Liverpool and Juve, who had to face Austria Wien and Sparta Prague respectively in the quarter-finals.

In Turin, Juventus easily beat Sparta 3-0 with Tardelli, Rossi and Massimo Briaschi scoring the goals. Although they lost 1-0 in Prague, going down to a late penalty, they were never in danger of going out of the competition. Their opponents in the semi-final were Bordeaux, who were also beaten 3-0 in the first leg (Boniek, Briaschi and Platini scoring). The second meeting was tense and the French side won 2-0 leaving Juventus hanging on for dear life in the closing minutes.

Liverpool got past Austria Wien and Panathinaikos in the quarters and semis, but they had lost their league championship crown to neighbours Everton, who finished 13 points in front of the Reds. For both clubs, winning the European Cup was the only way they were going to return to the competition in 1985-86. Juve’s team of 1985 may not have secured another chance to win it – the average age of the side was almost 29 years.

The events before the game, with fans dying in the Heysel Stadium, should probably have forced an abandonment. It was something of a surprise that the final went ahead, but it has passed into history as the Heysel disaster rather than a game between two of the world’s top football teams.

The game was decided by a penalty in the 56th minute. Boniek was brought down by Gary Gillespie on the edge of the area, some say it was outside the danger zone, but Swiss referee Andre Daina, gave the penalty. Platini beat Bruce Grobbelaar from the spot and then celebrated before realising his mistake.

Juventus were awarded the trophy in the dressing rooms but then went on a lap of honour, which seemed a little inappropriate in the circumstances. For Liverpool manager Joe Fagan, it was a dreadful finale to his career. Earlier in the day he had announced his retirement: “There was a game of football in the end, but I don’t think anyone’s heart was in it. Mine certainly wasn’t. Football is a game, but not any longer to some. It was UEFA’s decision that we should play, not ours. What a sad way for me to end.”

Many Juventus fans urged their players not to play the game, but they celebrated, albeit reservedly, when their experienced team took the European Cup to Turin for the first time. The final proved to be Paulo Rossi’s last game for Juventus as he joined AC Milan after a poor season in which he managed just three Serie A goals. Boniek and Tardelli also left the club, for Roma and Inter respectively. Trapattoni’s next big foreign signing was Denmark’s Michael Laudrup, who helped Juve recapture the title in 1986.

The football year 1985 was a grim one. Heysel came just a few weeks after the fire at Valley Parade and hooliganism had reared its ugly head several times in the 1984-85 season. It was the beginning of the end of football’s old order, accelerated four years later by the Hillsborough disaster. Juventus were European champions, but the dark shadow of 39 dead supporters has always denied them the chance to really celebrate the achievement.

 

@GameofthePeople

Photo: PA

 

 

Europe’s Champions: Juventus 1984-85

IT SEEMS amazing that it took until 1985 for Juventus to win their first European Cup. They had gone close prior to that,  losing 1-0 in both 1973 (Ajax) and 1983 (Hamburg), but they invariably under-achieved in the competition. Sadly, the achievement was overshadowed by the death of 39 Juventus fans in Brussels, caused by crowd violence involving Liverpool supporters. The match became almost incidental but in the aftermath, English clubs were banned from Europe until 1990.

At home in Italy, Juventus were the team of the 1970s through to the early 80s. After Giovanni Trapattoni was appointed manager in 1976, they won five Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias. Furthermore, they had won the UEFA Cup in 1977 and European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1984. From 1970, Juventus had won eight league titles versus two for Inter and one for AC Milan.

Juventus were a mature, star-studded team in 1984. Michel Platini, France’s captain, scored 20 goals in 28 games as Juve won the 1983-84 scudetto. Platini had joined the club in 1982 from Saint-Etienne and went on to win the Ballon d’Or in 1983 and 1984. To cap a great year, Platini also captained France to the European Championship, scoring no less than nine goals in five games, including two hat-tricks.

Juventus had won Serie A by a two-point margin in 1984, just edging out reigning champions Roma. They clinched the title on May 6, drawing 1-1 with Avellino in Turin’s Stadio Communale. Paulo Rossi, the hero of Italy’s 1982 World Cup triumph, scored the last of his 13 league goals to give Juve the lead.

Six members of the victorious 1982 Azzurri side came from Juve: Dino Zoff, Gatano Scirea, Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini Marco Tardelli and Rossi. All were part of the team that won the title in 1984, with Libya-born Gentile moving to Fiorentina in the summer of 1984. Trapattoni signed Avellino’s Luciano Favero as Gentile’s replacement. A powerful and versatile player, he slotted in nicely with the other mainstays of the Juve defence, Scirea and Cabrini, but never won a cap for Italy.

The Juve side was largely Italian, the only foreigners were Platini, Zbigniew Boniek (Poland) and Massimo Bonini (San Marino). Coach Trapattoni was an old campaigner when it came to European club competition – he was part of the AC Milan teams that won the European Cup in 1963 and 1969 and he had also coached the Rossoneri to the UEFA Cup in final in 1974.

The 1984-85 Italian domestic season had added spice in that Diego Maradona arrived at Napoli after leaving Barcelona. The expectation was enormous and created great excitement right across Italy. In addition, unfancied Verona went on to win their one and only scudetto. Verona beat Juventus early in the season 2-0 and it was clear that 1984-85 would be a tougher campaign for the champions. By Christmas, Juve were seven points behind Verona and were languishing in seventh place.

Away from the domestic front, Juve were already in the last eight of the European Cup, having beaten Finland’s Ilves (6-1 on aggregate) and Grasshopper Zurich (6-2) in the first two rounds. Liverpool, the holders, had squeezed past Benfica in the second round after easily disposing of Lech Poznań. The rest of the last eight looked quite weak compared to Liverpool and Juve, who had to face Austria Wien and Sparta Prague respectively in the quarter-finals.

In Turin, Juventus easily beat Sparta 3-0 with Tardelli, Rossi and Massimo Briaschi scoring the goals. Although they lost 1-0 in Prague, going down to a late penalty, they were never in danger of going out of the competition. Their opponents in the semi-final were Bordeaux, who were also beaten 3-0 in the first leg (Boniek, Briaschi and Platini scoring). The second meeting was tense and the French side won 2-0 leaving Juventus hanging on for dear life in the closing minutes.

Liverpool got past Austria Wien and Panathinaikos in the quarters and semis, but they had lost their league championship crown to neighbours Everton, who finished 13 points in front of the Reds. For both clubs, winning the European Cup was the only way they were going to return to the competition in 1985-86. Juve’s team of 1985 may not have secured another chance to win it – the average age of the side was almost 29 years.

The events before the game, with fans dying in the Heysel Stadium, should probably have forced an abandonment. It was something of a surprise that the final went ahead, but it has passed into history as the Heysel disaster rather than a game between two of the world’s top football teams.

The game was decided by a penalty in the 56th minute. Boniek was brought down by Gary Gillespie on the edge of the area, some say it was outside the danger zone, but Swiss referee Andre Daina, gave the penalty. Platini beat Bruce Grobbelaar from the spot and then celebrated before realising his mistake.

Juventus were awarded the trophy in the dressing rooms but then went on a lap of honour, which seemed a little inappropriate in the circumstances. For Liverpool manager Joe Fagan, it was a dreadful finale to his career. Earlier in the day he had announced his retirement: “There was a game of football in the end, but I don’t think anyone’s heart was in it. Mine certainly wasn’t. Football is a game, but not any longer to some. It was UEFA’s decision that we should play, not ours. What a sad way for me to end.”

Many Juventus fans urged their players not to play the game, but they celebrated, albeit reservedly, when their experienced team took the European Cup to Turin for the first time. The final proved to be Paulo Rossi’s last game for Juventus as he joined AC Milan after a poor season in which he managed just three Serie A goals. Boniek and Tardelli also left the club, for Roma and Inter respectively. Trapattoni’s next big foreign signing was Denmark’s Michael Laudrup, who helped Juve recapture the title in 1986.

The football year 1985 was a grim one. Heysel came just a few weeks after the fire at Valley Parade and hooliganism had reared its ugly head several times in the 1984-85 season. It was the beginning of the end of football’s old order, accelerated four years later by the Hillsborough disaster. Juventus were European champions, but the dark shadow of 39 dead supporters has always denied them the chance to really celebrate the achievement.

 

@GameofthePeople

Photo: PA