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History's Worst Soccer Riots

Soccer has a passionate fan base. But history's worst soccer riots have shown that when it gets out of hand, it can be deadly.

By Dave SchneiderPublished 5 years ago 5 min read

Rioting in soccer is fairly common. Its rabid fan base is worldwide and it often takes common rivalries personally. Most matches feature the casual drunken fan yelling profanities at one another, but it's football hooliganism's behavior that often leads to riots.

Typically, football hooliganism consists of firms or gangs that support a particular club. These firms often organize their attacks or targets long before the match begins. They often clash with police and other fan bases, resulting in multiple arrests and deaths. Police have taken a firm approach towards football hooliganism, sometimes met with negative results. Some of these altercations have been dramatized in various films, such as The Green Street Hooligans.

History's worst soccer riots have many different causes and effects. But the underlying catalyst for it all is passion. No one will ever deny a fan's passion for his or her team. And that is exactly the problem.

It's a shock that Buenos Aires is still standing after Argentina lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup. At the height of a debt crisis and political corruption in the country, Argentinians saw the World Cup as a unifying opportunity.

But when Germany scored the winning goal in extra time, Buenos Aires erupted. Police forces arrested more than 50 people and injuring 20 others. While no one was killed in the riots, it is still remembered as one of history's worst soccer riots.

The 1985 Kenilworth Road Riot

The infamous match between Luton Town and Millwall is remembered as one of worst incidents of football hooliganism and history's worst soccer riots. When Luton refused Millwall's request to make the FA Cup sixth-round match an all-ticket game, Luton's out-of-town fans vastly outnumbered Millwall's supporters.

By game time, the Kenilworth Stand, reserved for Luton's visiting fans, was overflowing. Fans began to rip out seats and hurl them onto the field as each police officer dodged a flurry of bottles and cans. The aftermath included 47 injuries and a ban on Luton's away supporters which lasted four years.

Weeks after Croatia's first multi-party election in 50 years, one of history's worst soccer riots was between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade. Tensions were high after the election, which had eliminated communism in favor of multiple national parties.

Fights broke out before the match even began as police combated the rioters with batons and tear gas. As a result, 60 people were injured and the Yugoslav First League came to an end. Some say this is the match that started the war between Croatia and Serbia.

The 1985 Birmingham City vs. Leeds Riot

At least 500 people were injured and one person was killed at the Birmingham City and Leeds riot. Birmingham's hooligan firm, the Zulu Warriors or Zulus, traveled to St. Andrews for the final game of the season where they fought with police.

The Zulus became the subject of undercover investigations, leading to multiple arrests over the years. They continue to maintain the belief that they're defending their city from rival firms, often participating in history's worst soccer riots.

Shortly before kick-off, hooligans between Liverpool and Juventus began throwing stones at each other across a small divide. The fights escalated as Liverpool hooligans charged at Juventus fans and fought with police during the match.

As fans began to flee toward the corner of the stadium, a wall collapsed and killed 39 people. Juventus fans retaliated by rioting and fighting with police forces. Despite the chaotic atmosphere, the match continued with Juventus eventually winning on a penalty kick. The disaster remains one of history's worst soccer riots.

The 2012 Port Said Stadium Riot

In Egypt, a match between the Al-Masry and Al-Ahly clubs turned deadly when thousands of fans stormed the field. Al-Masry fans began to throw bottles and attack Al-Ahly fans with knives who tried to flee. Police locked down the stadium gates, leaving the fans helpless. 74 people were killed and more than 500 were injured, becoming one of the most deadly riots.

As of February 2017, 10 people have been sentenced to death for their role in one of history's worst soccer riots and the Egyptian government shut down the league for a couple years.

The Accra Sports Stadium disaster is the most deadly to ever happen and African history's worst soccer riots. In anticipation of unrest in the match between two popular clubs in Ghana, Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko, police took extra security measures.

After a controversial referee call, fans threw their seats and bottles onto the field. Police responded by firing tear gas into the crowd. Due to the stadium's complicated design and locked gates, fans were trampled on, resulting in 127 deaths.

The 2003 Wroclaw Riot

An arranged fight broke out between several hooligan firms during a match between two Polish clubs. The epic brawl involved knives, clubs, and cleavers. When police intervened, they fired water cannons at the hooligans and arrested 120 people.

Police later stated that they believed one of history's worst soccer riots was not started by fans, but by "bandits posing as fans."

Following a tense Turkish league championship game which featured several red cards, unhappy fans threw plastic chairs, flares, and stones at police. Riots continued outside the stadium as people smashed storefront windows and set police cars on fire in Istanbul.

While some people were pepper sprayed, there were no reported injuries in one of history's worst soccer riots.

The 1964 Estadio Nacional Disaster

The Estadio Nacional disaster was a direct result of police mismanagement. Known as the deadliest of history's worst soccer riots, 328 people died when Peruvian police fired tear gas into the stands, causing fans to panic.

When a controversial referee call was protested by a couple fans sprinting onto the field, they were beaten by police. Packed to its capacity of 53,000, many people ran for the exits but were trampled over as they pressed into the locked steel shutters. Many suffered from internal hemorrhaging or asphyxia.


About the Creator

Dave Schneider

Former high school teacher and baseball coach.

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