On the 29th of May 1985, Juventus won their first European Cup by defeating Liverpool in what was supposed to be remembered as a glorious day for the club.
But sadly, the outcome of the contest was overshadowed by the tragic events that ensued in the stands before kickoff, when crowd trouble resulted in the collapse of a wall, ending the lives of 39 Juventus supporters, including women and children.
For his part, Francesco Merloni was in Heysel, and he recalls the disastrous events of that day. The 97-year-old was the owner of “Ariston”, which was the Bianconeri’s official jersey sponsor.
Merloni reveals that Juventus legend Giampiero Boniperti – who served as club president at the time – never wanted his team to take the field following the tragic events, but was forced to do the opposite for fear of a grander calamity.
“I was there at Heysel. I arrived at the stadium with the team bus together with Boniperti,” said Merloni in an interview with Corriere della Sera via Calciomercato.
“From the grandstand I saw everything. I rushed to the changing rooms. Boniperti didn’t want to play, I was the one who acted as a translator between him and the Belgian police.
“They told us ‘The army is on the move by will arrive in two hours. If we don’t play there will be thousands of dead’. It was terrible, I never went to a football stadium again.”