While swearing, mistimed streamers and the occasional smoke bomb may be enough to upset a few spectators at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park -- see our August 7 feature story on Colorado Rapids fans for more on that -- this kind of behavior pales in comparison to what is exhibited by soccer fans around the world, where the beautiful game has always attracted an element of fanaticism.
Click "More" to see videos and descriptions of some of the most outrageous episodes:
The Heysel Stadium Disaster – May 29, 1985 (Video above).:
Italian side, Juventus, and England’s Liverpool met up in Brussels for the European Cup Final in a stadium that some people thought, even then, was too old and unsafe for such a large game. Supporters of each team were placed in different sections and separated by a buffer zone of neutrals. But this served only to create a free area for more supporters to infiltrate past a thin chicken-wire fence separating the groups. Before the game even started, fans began hurling missiles back and forth at one and other, with reports that some of the objects may have been pieces of the crumbling stadium. As the game approached and things became more intense, a group of Liverpool fans forced their way through the chicken wire, causing the Juventus fans to retreat to a perimeter wall. The wall could not sustain the weight and collapsed, killing 39 people and injuring 600. In retaliation, Juventus fans then fought with police outside the stadium for nearly two hours.
The Hillsborough Disaster – April 15, 1989:
During an FA Cup semi-finals game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, a huge crowd gathered outside Hillsborough Stadium. Fans without tickets who had been turned away tried to leave, but had nowhere to go as more people pushed towards the stadium behind them. As thousands of fans spilled into the stadium, police opened a gate intended as an exit to avoid deaths. Instead, the crowd pushed into the stadium on the heels of those already standing in the central pens. At the time, many English stadiums had large fences at the front of the terraces to keep people from running onto the field. At Hillsborough, those in the front were pushed so forcefully up against the fences that many died of suffocation. The fence finally broke due to the pressure and the field quickly became a hospital. But 94 people died and 766 were injured. The disaster led to the removal of barriers at the front of the stands and the conversion of many U.K. stadiums to all-seaters, with no standing sections.
Red Star Belgrade vs. Dinamo Zagreb, May 13, 1990
Ethnic tension between Croatians and Serbs boiled over at a soccer match between Red Star Belgrade (a side comprised of Serbian supporters) and Dinamo Zagreb (pro-Croatian) on May 13, 1990, before the break up of Yugoslavia. At the match, opposing fans began chanting at each other before eventually ripping out the stadium seating and hurling it at rival fans. Eventually, all protective fencing was torn down and thousands of fans flooded onto the field for an all out riot during which hundreds were injured. Police arrived with armored vehicles and water cannons while most of the players headed for the locker room. A few from the Dinamo team stuck around, however. One of them, Zvonimir Boban, kicked an officer who was beating a man on the ground with a truncheon; the blow was so hard that the officer also fell to the ground. Boban became a hero in Croatia and was vilified in Serbia. Though police brought criminal charges against him, he was never prosecuted.
Togo vs. Mali, March 27, 2005
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A World Cup qualifying match between Togo and Mali on March 27, 2005 in Bamako, the capital of Mali, was abandoned early when Togo went up 2-1 and the Mali fans invaded the field, prompting police to fire tear gas. As news of the cancellation spread, a wave of violence shook the streets as Mali fans chanted death threats against Mali players, overturned cars, looted stores and the destroyed property and monuments. In the melee, the building housing the local Olympics committee was also burned down.
In Argentina, more than 150 people have died over the past eighty years in soccer-related violence. In 2005, a game between rival teams in the town of Mendoza culminated in fans invading the field and fighting. Several players tried to calm the situation, including second division player Carlos Ezcurra, who ended up getting shot with a rubber bullet and seriously wounded. – Adam Cayton-Holland