The 96 remembered by Villarreal
Villarreal paid a touching tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster before tonight’s semi-final.
Almost 2,000 kilometres separate Vila-real on Spain's east coast and Liverpool, yet the two cities united to honour those who were not able to attend tonight’s Europa League semi-final, but who in the minds of everyone.
In the week when an inquest jury delivered a verdict that 96 football fans were unlawfully killed at an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough stadium almost three decades ago, Liverpool’s Europa League opponents paid tribute to those who died. In the minutes running up to kick-off, a giant yellow flag was held up in the south stand at El Madrigal. Beside the number 96 in large letters, it read: “You’ll never walk alone”.
Liverpool fans were appreciative of the gesture – one which was respectful and which came solely from Villarreal – they were under no obligation to do so.
As a club spokesman told AS on the eve of the match: “It is our way to show the we, the club, and our fans, show solidarity and support for the families and friends who were affected by what happened at Hillsborough 27 years ago”.
It’s not the first time that Villarreal have shown solidarity to the local community. In May 2003, a military plane carrying 41 soldiers who had been on a four-month peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan crashed in Maçka, Turkey on its way back to Spain.
All 62 of those who were on board perished – and many of them were from the Valencia or Castellón region. When Villarreal were drawn against Trabzonpor in the first round of the UEFA Cup that October, the club invited relatives of those who had died to travel with the team.
Family members held a ceremony at the site of the accident and laid 62 white roses. They were also invited to the game, in which there was a minute’s silence before kick-off and both teams wore black armbands.
Like them, the 96 would be proud to know that they haven’t been forgotten.