Hillsborough. A word that immediately resonates with soccer fans worldwide as one of the most tragic and regrettable moments in the sports’ long history.
April 15th, 1989, 25 years ago this week, 96 Liverpool Football Club supporters went to a match in Sheffield and lost their lives in a terrible accident, the scale of which hasn’t been since.
Sounders defender Djimi Traore spent the better part of seven seasons with the Reds on Merseyside and was with the club at the disaster’s 15th anniversary in 2004.
“When I was in Liverpool, you are aware as a player because every year there was a celebration,” said Traore. “Especially for the new players, they talk to you about the story of the event. When I was there, one of the young players from the academy, his dad was one of the victims. So yes, of course, it was very sad for the Liverpool fans. Every year we did something special for the fans because it’s a very special day.”
Traore, 34, played at Anfield from 1999-2006, making 88 appearances for the storied Premier League side. During that time he became heavily connected to the Liverpool community, one he still identifies with nearly eight year after his departure.
Looking back on his years in England, the Malian defender said he often spoke with his teammates about the massive impact of the tragedy, and how the perspective of things has changed dramatically in the years since.
“In my time, players like Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher always talked about how we didn’t know the true story, nobody knows who’s responsible about that sad day,” he said. “I remember one day I tried to buy one of the newspapers and Gerrard said to me, ‘Oh no, you can’t buy that one because they made it seem like the fans’ fault.
To be honest, I think you need to be there to feel the atmosphere and how sad it is. Every year, you can see players with tears because everyone is close to the families and know a lot about them.”
Despite the recent findings about that day in Sheffield, Traore knows that the message from the club to everyone that was impacted by it will never change.
“We never forget those people [that lost their lives],” Traore said vehemently. “When you are part of the Liverpool family, no one will ever forget you. Very sad story but in the end, we will never forget them.”