Friday, April 07, 2006

Soccorski!

The Bradford fire, the Hysel riot and the tragedy at Hillsborough in Sheffield when 95 English soccer fans were crushed against the crowd control fences at an FA Cup semi final, are not the worst soccer tragedies in recent history. The suppressed truth of the worst disaster in European sport only leaked out in the Soviet press in July, 1989, seven years after it happened. Previously the true scale of the tragedy had only been hinted at, and its real cause entirely suppressed.

As many as 340 fans were crushed to death on October 20th, 1982 when Spartak Moscow played dutch club Haarlem.

Earlier official accounts placed blame for the incident on hooliganism, then the target of a concerted campaign. But the detailed report in Sovietsky Sport blamed the police at the Luzhniki stadium, who had hustled departing fans down a single, narrow, icy corridor. Hundreds of fans were crushed to death on the only open staircase when a last-minute Russian goal sent spectators surging back toward the field, the newspaper said. Fans had slipped on the ice and been overwhelmed in a "human mincer."

Sovietsky Sport said the authorities had staged a cover-up, cordoning off the stadium and withholding bodies for almost two weeks. Moscow officials disputed the claims made in the publication of the Soviet Sports Committee, clinging to the official story that only 61 died and police had not pushed the fans.

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