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Butler: Canada lends a hand in remembering Hillsborough

Noel Butler, TSN.ca
11/30/2012 1:43:25 PM
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On April 15, 1989, a total of 96 fans were killed and more than 700 injured at Sheffield's Hillsborough Stadium. The fans - there to attend an FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest - were crushed largely due to poor crowd control and negligence on the part of local police. The Hillsborough disaster is regarded as one of the worst disasters in the history of professional football. 

Barcelona FC claims to be “more than a club”, Manchester United define their ground as a “Theatre of Dreams”, the self-alleger (and Real Madrid manager) Jose Mourinho claims to be a “Special One,” whilst Brazil - our next World Cup hosts - gave the sport “The Beautiful Game”.

Then there is the Liverpool Way. A philosophy aptly defined on the club's website:

“It's the value of hard work and togetherness, the capacity to overcome difficulties and above all the principles of fair play and dignified behaviour both on and off the field; when we see players or coaches act in a certain way it is instantly recognizable a philosophy we call ‘The Liverpool Way.'”

Those very same principles and values have been at the core of an organization, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) that sprang up in the aftermath of the wretched horrors of April 15th 1989 - The Hillsborough Tragedy.

Unfolding live on television, more than the lives of innocent supporters were lost that day.

Along with the deaths of 96 supporters, we now know that a massive structural cover up on a scale never previously seen in the UK also occurred that FA Cup Semi Final Saturday afternoon courtesy of the full Independent Report that was made public in early fall.

Families not only had to deal with bereavement but also with the cloud of insinuation and accusation that has hung forebodingly in the air for well over two decades.

Not any longer.

The most distressing fact to come from the exhaustive report is clear evidence that 41 of the 96 deceased ‘had the potential to survive'. British Prime Minister David Cameron offered a profound apology and a fresh inquest will be called.

A legal investigation will take place and bring to count all those responsible in the cover up. Senior police offices stand accused and criminal convictions will rightfully result.

In the meantime HJC are determined to erect a permanent monument to the memory of their loved and lost ones. A child is the inspiration behind the idea.

An inquisitive young girl on a visit to the Liverpool pier head asked her dad why there wasn't a Hillsborough monument in the city centre. From there the matter was bought up during one of HJC's monthly meetings.

Ken Derbyshire, the president of HJC explained to TSN.ca the vital importance of erecting such a monument.

“There is a small memorial at Anfield, but it was felt that something more fitting and more permanent was needed to keep the memory of the 96 alive and remind us that this could have happened to anyone,” he said.

“Various sites were discussed and it was agreed that it should be an accessible site, open to everybody not just Liverpool fans.”

One possible site for the memorial was the Liverpool docks.

“The prominence of the Liverpool waterfront, its accessibility to locals and tourists alike make an ideal location,” said Derbyshire.

Much debate will ensue before the location of the monument is eventually decided upon. HJC's immediate focus is on increasing the awareness and raising the desperately needed funds for a project of this immense scale. Then factor in the sensitive nature of it all.

But the docks hold a place of honour for Canadians as well.

“For Canadians it is particularly apt as the pavement in front of the three graces hold brass plates in memory of all the Royal Canadian Navy ships that protected Liverpool sailors on the hazardous North Atlantic convoys,”

The monument will become a destination for the families all those touched by the tragedy and Liverpool supporters from across the world: Some of whom live in our neighbourhoods.

Following a chance encounter for three people that occurred at a bookstore in Liverpool, an ex-Liverpudlian has helped organize a fundraising event that will be staged this evening thousands of miles away from those world famous Shankly Gates.

It will take place at the Celtic Pub in St. Catharines, ON.

Tellingly, the Liverpudlian is an Everton fan.

The chance encounter occurred with an old friend who just so happens to be the guitarist from legendary Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Brian Nash. The third person is Nash's sister-in-law, Debi McMilan, who heads the fundraising for HJC.

The Evertonian Ian Barry is a barrister specializing in injury law and offered HJC his legal expertise for free. But as lawyers in the UK are already committed pro bono McMilan suggested to Barry that when he returned home to St. Catharines he organize a fund raising event of his own.

On his return home Barry immediately set about the task, calling on the St. Catharines extended football family to all get involved.

The response was overwhelming: Be they Manchester United supporters or Everton men and woman, all set aside club allegiances. In no time at all they came up with the idea to stage a race night and auction.

Football like many sports can be way too divisive but the response out of St. Catharines was typical as fans from all clubs have been galvanized to the cause since the release of the Independent Report.

“The response and support has been nothing short of phenomenal,” explained McMilan. “We have always had support throughout the years, and we're so grateful to everyone across the world for their messages.”

In a season for the Barclays Premier League that seemingly has lurched from one high-profile scandal to the next, solace and relief is yet again found within grass roots movements.

How inspiring it is, then, that a community so detached from Anfield and the horrific scars Hilsborough has inflicted on so many has found compelling reasons to get involved.

McMilan says HJC is very touched by Barry's initiative.

“Everyone at the HJC would like to wish St Catharines a great night on November 30th,” he said.

“It's sure to be a fantastic event, and we would like to thank each and every one of those both organizing and attending for their continued support of the campaign… You'll Never Walk Alone."

On Friday evening they will all gather at the Celtic Pub in memory of the Hillsborough fallen. Tears will flow, as will the toasts in honor of the 96.

Further Details:

www.celticclub.ca

Ian Barry ianyxu@hotmail.com

Hillsborough Justice Campaign

www.contrast.org | hillsboroughjusticecampaign@hotmail.co.uk

Twttter @debimcmillan96 | @HJC_Official | Facebook/HJCofficial

Donations can be made via Paypal | Email Address: justice_4_96@yahoo.co.uk

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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