Last night Newcastle fought back to get a 2-2 draw with Everton in an entertaining game that had a brilliant opening goal from Leighton Baines after a free-flowing move, two clinical equalizers from the substitute Demba Ba and the farcical minute when the home side weren’t given a goal despite the ball being over the line before the referee stopped play instead of playing advantage as Newcastle looked to be through on goal when breaking.
As the host of Monday Night Football, Ed Chamberlin, said, it was the game of the weekend. But the main reason it will rightly be remembered was for the tribute to the victims of Hillsborough.
At the end of a footballing week when the Hillsborough cover-up was finally made public, a wholly preventable tragedy from over 23 years ago has once again rightly dominated the football news. The detail, which included evidence of 116 police statements that were doctored and the deliberate attempts to criminalise victims as young as 10 years old, highlight how football fans were routinely treated in the 1980’s, where passion for the people’s game was held in contempt by authorities and a right-wing Government in a class ridden society.
Everton took to the field last night with two young mascots, kitted in respective red and blue jerseys, and the numbers ‘9’ and ‘6’ on the back, before the names of the dead were displayed on the screen in the ground as The Holllies’ He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother played over the tannoy. It was a tribute that showed solidarity with a rival and a neighbour, and also a reminder of the power unity can bring, as the ‘Justice for the 96’ campaign has shown.
Efforts to sweep Hillsborough under the campaign finally failed as supporters of clubs across the country signed the petition that led to Parliament releasing documents previously hidden. And it has led to a weekend when Match of the Day 2 closing credits showing the victims in age order perfectly showed the scale of the tragedy and viewers of the Saturday programme actually wanted to not only hear what Alan Hansen had to say, but wanted him to keep talking.
A lot has changed for football fans today, much of it positive and aided by the implementations of the Taylor Report which minimize the chances of another fatal crush within a ground. But the movement of the Justice campaign, and the acts of solidarity and respect throughout the game since, may well be an example that is needed to be called upon in the future.
The Substantive Football Columnist Mel Gomes’ new e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley’ is now available to preview and download from Amazon and Smashwords. With past recollections of matches including Clasicos, Milan Derbies and Diego Maradona’s one appearance at White Hart Lane, it covers a journey over land and sea in the 2010-11 Champions League, with an epilogue at the end of the 2012 season. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.