Continuing the series that looks at those thankfully rare times in football history when fans went to a football match but never made it home afterwards.
Puerta 12, Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
The rivalry between River Plate and Boca Juniors, known as the Superclasico, is arguably the fiercest in the world. Separated by just 7 km in a country obsessed with football, it is estimated that nearly three quarters of all Argentines identify themselves as either a River Plate or Boca fan.
River Plate are viewed as the club of the upper middle class, whilst Boca portrays themselves as the team of the working man. This is a gross simplification of course, and, in reality, fans of many different hues and backgrounds follow both clubs.
Violence is often associated with the fixture, with clashes between ultra-groups of both clubs common. When the two clubs met in the final of the Copa Libertadores in 2018, the second leg, which was originally due to be played at River Plate’s stadium, was moved 10,000 kms away to Madrid after the Boca team bus was attacked by rival supporters.
However, the darkest day in the history of the fixture had occurred fifty years before, in June 1968.
A league game between the two at River Plate’s Estadio Monumental had just finished, and fans were streaming towards the exit. For reasons that have never fully been ascertained, one of the exits that facilitated the egress of Boca fans from the ground – gate 12 – was locked, causing a build-up of bodies.
The pressure of the crowd built-up, somebody slipped and there was suddenly an avalanche of bodies, with those at the bottom of the pile struggling to breathe.
Two River managers were prosecuted on suspicion of negligence, but the case against them was quashed.
By the time that the authorities restored order, 71 people were dead, all of them Boca fans, and most of them young. The average age of the victims was 19 years old.
To make matters worse, some of those fans who did subsequently escape from the stadium were trampled underfoot by mounted police who were waiting for them outside.
The Argentine Football Association and the two clubs between them raised a fund of just under US $100,000. And just over US $1,000 per victim was dispersed, with families of the victims asked to renounce any further legal claims.
A subsequent criminal investigation was inconclusive. Some eye-witnesses claimed that the turnstile had stopped the fans leaving, whilst others maintained it was the actions of the Federal Police that prevented it, with Boca fans regarded as anti the military dictatorship that ruled the country at that time.
Two families stood out, and later received US $50,00 each.
After the disaster, the exit was renamed Access L, whilst, in 2008, filmmaker Pablo Tesoriere released a documentary called Puerto 12.
It remains the worst sporting tragedy in Argentinian history.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.