Jordan Henderson says he would think twice about attending a big football game as a fan after the ‘horrific’ scenes in the Champions League final in Paris last season and the Premier League final Europe at Wembley the previous summer.
The Liverpool and England midfielder, who featured in both games, has some terrible stories to tell about his family’s experiences in each. He says his father, Brian, decided after Paris that he would not travel again, meaning he would not follow England to the World Cup final in Qatar. Henderson has other family members who were similarly put off.
The Champions League final in May was marked by organizational chaos and dangerous scenes before, during and after. Thousands of supporters missed kick-off, which was delayed by 36 minutes due to congestion outside the Stade de France where Liverpool supporters had been bottlenecked. Police used tear gas indiscriminately and local youths attacked and robbed supporters.
“It was pretty awful,” Henderson said. “When I spoke to some of my friends, my family and my father, it was pretty bad. If the fans weren’t respectful, there could have been a lot more problems. I think the fans were amazing.
“It was the authorities and the people around the stadium who weren’t and causing trouble. I guess as a fan, if you go to the game and you don’t feel comfortable and feel threatened by any situation, you won’t want to go back. It really is that simple.
“My family and friends have had a few experiences over the past two years that really shocked them and probably put them off attending future games. When you see scenes like the Euro finals, the Champions League final, they don’t really want to get back into this situation.
“I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to put themselves in this situation. There were two totally different reasons [for the problems] but again, if it was me, I wouldn’t want to put myself in this situation.
“My dad said after the Champions League final that it was over. As we approach the World Cup… there are a lot of security elements and things going on in Qatar which, I I’m sure will make people safer. But when you’ve had these experiences, you sometimes think, “Is it worth the risk? We’ll have to look closer in time.”
During the European Championship final in July last year, fans fought with police and stewards and stormed the turnstiles to force entry without tickets. Alan Maguire, the father of England defender Harry, was trampled in the stampede and suffered suspected broken ribs. Many others were injured and shaken.
Henderson said: ‘My wife and children have to enter through a side door [at Wembley] and they didn’t let them in at first. They were trapped. She was trying to steer the kids away from the middle of what was going on and finally after about 15 or 20 minutes someone recognized her and let them in. If that person hadn’t, it could have been a problem.
“My dad was a bit involved and Harry Maguire’s dad was badly hurt. My children were fine but they were lucky. I think other kids and other parents might not have been so lucky…it would have been awful [for them]. We all know it was a bad experience for a lot of people and then we have Paris, which is probably even worse.”
Henderson was asked if the players were aware of what was going on before games. “Not how bad they both were,” he said. “The one in Paris was a little different. you leave [for the warm-up] then it gets delayed. They just say, “Delay the arrival of the fans.” And you don’t really know why.
“So you’re going out again [to warm up] and it’s still not a lot of fans [in the seats] and you start to wonder what’s really going on. At the same time, you’re trying to prepare for one of the biggest games of your life. It was the same on both sides. »