Liverpool v Manchester United: A chance for UEFA to redeem itself?

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The football world was shook on the 15th April 1989, ninety six football fans went to see their beloved team play in an FA cup semi-final but never returned. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about; the Hillsborough disaster. Eight great footballers, eight great journalists and five well respected others lost there lives as a result of the events on the 6th February 1958. Of course; the Munich air disaster. Liverpool and Manchester United, the great rivalry in England, were the teams to be deeply affected by this tragedy. Today these teams meet for the first time since an independent inquiry slammed reports that drunken Liverpool fans were to blame for the death of 96 of their own.

It will be an emotional day for all Liverpool fans, especially as it is the first time that the reds have played infront of their home crowd since the findings were announced. It is through pure coincidence that they meet such a bitter rival. In the past both sets of fans have chanted abusive slurs about each other’s tragedies and losses, but Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson has urged fans to respect each other and the occasion, in fact every Manchester supporter in attendence will receive a letter from the Scot.

In the letter he writes about the competition between the clubs, “Our rivalry with Liverpool is based on a determination to come out on top – a wish to see us crowned the best against a team that held that honour for so long.”  He added “It cannot and should never be based on personal hatred. Just 10 days ago, we heard the terrible, damning truth about the deaths of 96 fans who went to watch their team try and reach the FA Cup final and never came back. What happened to them should wake the conscience of everyone connected with the game.”

I and so many others involved in the game hope that both sets of fans will respect each other and I strongly believe that the vast, vast majority of all at Anfield will. If they do it will show that the Premier League is the greatest league in the world. The EPL has stiff competition, huge rivalry but hopefully this fixture will prove that above all it has heart, friendship and respect. Sadly, this match follows on from a game marred by racist chanting at White Hart Lane from a group of Lazio fans.

Unfortunately, there were two isolated incidents that spring to mind on Thursday where Jermain Defoe, Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon were mocked by Lazio fans and racially abused in the form of monkey noises. This has prompted calls from people in football for Michel Platini to do more to stamp out racism in European football. Platini, the head of UEFA, was in attendance on Thursday night and would have undoubtedly heard the chants from the Lazio supporters.

The Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985 resulted in 39 deaths of Juventus fans and a 5 year ban for ALL English clubs in Europe. Fourteen Liverpool fans were convicted of involuntary manslaughter, something very different to racism but I still feel that UEFA should crack down just as heavily handed on Lazio fans. Through the eyes of me and fellow football fans, UEFA have done very little to address the problem of racism on Europe and need to make an example of a club, just like they did in 1985.

At EURO 2012 Croatia fans were found guilty of chanting racist slurs, as a result the Croatian Football Association were fined £65,000  by European Football’s governors but this sanction was made a mockery of when the same body fined Nicklas Bendtner £80,000 for flashing his underpants. The EUROPA League game is an example to both sets of fans at today’s game how not to act. Having said this it is now in Platini’s hands; if they don’t come down hard on Lazio, who can be blamed for rubbishing UEFA’s attempts to eradicate racism in Europe? As far as the North West Derby is concerned, it relies on the fans. We are all urging them to remain respectful and I for one are confident they will.

Do UEFA need to come down hard on Lazio? Tell us what you think below.

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Read Joseph's thoughts on the past week in football every Saturday here at TiF. If that's too long to wait, then follow him on twitter @Josephperry9 to get his latest views.