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

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

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.

(For Part One click here; Part Two here; Part Three here; Part Four here; and Part Five here).

Gate 7, Karaiskakis Stadium, Athens

The Karaiskakis Stadium, which was the venue for the inaugural Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, and which is named after a hero of the Greek struggle for independence in the 19th century, became the home of the country’s most successful team, Olympiacos.

However, they are not the only big team in the nation’s capital – Panathinaikos and AEK Athens both have large supporter bases, and local derbies between the teams are hotly contested, both on and off the pitch.

One such match in February 1981 led to the biggest sporting tragedy in Greek history.

Olympiacos were entertaining AEK and thrashed their rivals 6 – 0.  The home fans were ecstatic and celebrated wildly at the final whistle. But the joy was short-lived for some of them.

As they looked to continue the party outside the ground, there was a rush for the exits. One of them, Gate 7, was partially closed for reasons that have never been determined. Fans who were on the bottom step facing the gate hesitated, and they were knocked to the ground by the crowd massing behind them.

Dozens of people were trampled underfoot as the crowd continued to surge forward.  When order was finally restored, 21 people, many of them teenagers or young adults, had lost their life, and at least 55 more were seriously hurt, a number of them with life changing injuries.  

Whilst nearly all of the victims were Olympiacos supporters, it later transpired that one of them was a fan of AEK, who had gone to the game with a friend who was backing the home team.

The Stadium was rebuilt as a modern facility to host the football competition at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

But the victims are not forgotten. Every year, on February 8th, the anniversary of the tragedy, there is a memorial event at the stadium, where supporters sing the refrain “Brothers you still live and you are the ones who guide us.”

At the tribute end of the ground where Gate 7 is located, some seats are coloured black instead of red and form the number “7”. There is also a monument on the side of the stadium which lists the names of all 21 who died that day.

In the past, visiting foreign teams like Liverpool and Red Star Belgrade have paid their own tributes to those caught up in the tragedy.

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