Home » Football History » They went to a match and never came back (Part Two)

They went to a match and never came back (Part Two)

Continuing the series which looks at those, thankfully, rare times when football fans went to a match but never came home again.

(For Part One click here).

Estadio Nacional Disaster, 1964

The worst footballing disaster of all time occurred in Lima, Peru, in May 1964, and was a qualifier for the Summer Olympics due to be held in Tokyo later that year. Peru were playing hosts to Argentina and needed at least a draw to keep their qualification hopes on track.

53,000 were in the Estadio Nacional at kick-off, but it was Argentina who took the lead, and then sat back and invited the home side to attack.

The spark came when Peru had, what would have been an equaliser, ruled off for a foul with six minutes of the match left. A local ultra, colloquially named Bomba, ran on to the pitch and tried to punch the referee, before the police intervened and escorted him away.

Then Edilberto Cuenca, another home fan also ran on to the pitch, and, this time, he was brutally attacked by the police. Officers began to kick and beat him with truncheons, whilst police dogs tore at his clothes.

This enraged the crowd who could not believe that the Lima police would treat one of their fellow citizens in this way.

Elements of them began to throw missiles at the police on the pitch, but others, trying to flee the escalating violence, attempted to leave the stadium by an exit gate, only to find that it was closed.

Things began to escalate out of control when the police launched tear gas canisters into the crowd. People ran from the pitch side only to meet head on those who had earlier tried to leave the ground.

With the turnstiles made of corrugated steel, they were impossible to break down and, for some fans, there was simply nowhere to go, and they were caught in a deadly crush.

It was only when the pressure of all the death bodies caused the turnstiles to buckle that some people were finally able to escape the stadium.

That was officially put at 328, nearly all of them as a result of asphyxia or internal haemorrhaging.

The stadium capacity was subsequently reduced by 11,000.

The violence was not ended there, however. Many of those who did male it out alive then fought with armed police on the streets. It was later ruled that those who subsequently died in those fights would not be included in the toll from the stadium disaster.

No blame was attributed to the police.

Seven days of  national state mourning was ordered in memory of those who had died, flags were flown at half mast and all public engagements were cancelled.

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