Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Rafa Benitez welcomes truth about Hillsborough

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez
Hillsborough horror remembered: An injured fan receiving attention on the pitch
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding
The Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Fans on the pitch at Hillsborough. FA Cup semi final April 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. 96 football fans lost their lives in Britain's worst stadium disaster
Fans receiving attention on the pitch. Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield will always bear the scar of England's worst football tragedy. On April 15th 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives having gone to watch their side contest an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest
Gill and Brian Caldwell being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough
An injured fan receiveing attention on the pitch
An injured fan sits against the goalpost with his leg in a splint
Fans recieving medical attention on the pitch
Hillsborough disaster policeman looks at a pile of police helmets lying on pitch amongst debris
Police shielding injured fans at Hillsborough
Kevin Williams stretchered off on the Hillsborough pitch during the Hillsborough disaster
Injured fans lie on advertising boards which were used as makeshift stretchers
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Bent and twisted fencing at Hillsborough in the aftermath of the tragedy
A distraught young Liverpool fan in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, his wife Marina and daughter Kelly during the memorial service for the victims of the Hillsborough Tragedy.
Scarves and floral tributes laid at Anfield
Scarves and floral tributes at Hillsborough
A young boy adding to the floral tributes at Anfield's Shankly gates
A message written on a wall remebering the Hillsborough disaster victims
Andrew Devine, coma victim of the Hillsborough football disaster
Hillsborough disaster victim Andrew Devine who is now communicating by pressing a micro switch
Margaret Thatcher at Hillsborough
Anfield fans leave flowers in the nets
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
A sea of flowers at Hillsborough stadium, in memory of the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough
Hillsborough Memorial
A Liverpool supporter holding a banner
Fans and players observe a minutes silence at Hillsborough
Liverpool's Xabi Alonso wearing a black armband in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: The Hillsborough memorial is covered with tributes at Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club on September 10, 2012 in Liverpool, England. On Wednesday relatives and friends of the 96 victims will see the full disclosure of all documents relating to the disaster when they are made public at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Fans crushed against the perimeter fence at Hillsborough

Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has welcomed the emergence of the truth about the Hillsborough disaster, saying fans had been expecting this "for a long, long time".

The report into the disaster, which exonerated the Liverpool fans from any blame, was a "positive" step which would help the families of the 96 victims to move forward, he said.

Published on Wednesday by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, the damning report found that 164 police statements were altered, mostly to obscure "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989.

Benitez paid tribute to the strength of the Liverpool fans, who, he said, made the club more than a football team but "an institution that belongs to a wider community".

In his new book 'Champions League Dreams', launched in Dublin yesterday, Benitez recalled the squad going to Anfield for the 20th anniversary ceremony of the Hillsborough disaster a couple of days after being eliminated from the Champions League.

More than 30,000 people attended the commemoration and began a moving rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' as the players walked from the tunnel.

"Nowhere else in the world would a team be able to return to its home stadium, the day after being eliminated from a competition, and be greeted by such warmth on an occasion of such sadness," Benitez said.

Benitez chose Ireland to launch his book because of its wonderful football fans.

"You can really see the passion for Liverpool here," he said.

More than 300 Liverpool fans joined the queue at Easons on O'Connell Street yesterday to meet their hero.

Keith Byrne (37), from Rathfarnham, Dublin, who has MS, insisted on rising from his wheelchair to get his jersey signed and to shake hands with Benitez.

"That's it now -- I'll never wash it again. I'm going to get it framed," he said.

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