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

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; Part Five here; and Part Six here).

1982 was a bad year for Stadium disasters. Within the period of less than a month, two tragedies were to occur more than 6,000 miles apart that were to cost the lives of 90 people, and to leave many more seriously injured.

Luzhniki Disaster, Lenin Stadium, Moscow October 1982

Sometimes even routine matches can result in a  disaster.

There was nothing special about Spartak Moscow’s home tie with the Dutch club HFC Haarlem in the UEFA Cup that year.

Although the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow normally held 82,000, only about 16.500 turned up for the game, including about 100 who had made the long journey from the Netherlands.

Many more who might have attended the match were put off by the weather conditions which were unusually cold and snowy for that time of year.

Given the reduced crowd, stadium organisers chose to open only two of the stands, with the majority of spectators congregating in the East Stand because that was closest to the adjacent metro station.

Spartak took an early lead and the rest of the match passed off without incident.

With full time approaching, several hundred fans rushed to Stairway 1 in the East Stand, looking to make an early exit and avid the rush.

What happened next is disputed, but, according to some eye witnesses at the time, a young woman lost her shoes on the steps and  stopped, trying to retrieve them and put them back on again. A couple of people stopped to help her, but the crowd behind them, oblivious to what was happening, crushed them underfoot, with metal barriers limiting the freedom of movement.

More fans began to stumble over the bodies, and the situation was made worse, when Spartak scored a second goal seconds from the end, with some spectators .trying to get back to the stands to witness the action.

By the time the dust had settled 66 people had died in the stampede most of whom were teenagers. The youngest was aged just 14, and the fatalities included five women. A post mortem examination revealed that all of them had died as a result of compressive asphyxia.

In addition, 61 people were injured, 21 of them seriously. It was the worst sporting disaster in the history of the Soviet Union.

Four men were eventually tried in relation to the disaster, and two were convicted of negligence and sent to jail for three years.

A public monument was erected to the disaster near to the spot at which it occurred, and in 2007, on the 25th anniversary, Spartak and Haarlem played a special match featuring former players from both clubs.

The disaster has often been occurred to the second Ibrox Stadium tragedy – both involved a crush on a stairway, both had the added ingredient of a late goal, and the same number of people lost their lives.

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