The tragedy of Gate 12

Monday marked the fourtieth anniversary of a dark day in the history of football in Argentina and, indeed, across South America. On the 23rd June 1968, as Boca Juniors fans left the Estadio Monumental at the end of a mid-season superclásico, a gate was left less than fully opened under circumstances that remain mysterious to this day, and the result was 71 deaths: the highest death toll of any of Argentina’s stadium disasters.

When the fans making their way down from the top of the Tribuna Centenario reached the final flight of stairs, there was a sudden rush down the stairs and fans towards the front tried to get out of the way by running for the exit. The gate, however, was obstructed, either closed altogether or left only partially open, and the turnstiles hadn’t been moved out of the way: it isn’t clear even today exactly what the situation was, much less what caused it.

As this memorial report in El Gráfico tells us, some survivors also spoke of how the police, mounted on horseback, compounded the situation by insisting that those who’d already made it through the gate re-enter, further congesting the only escape route. Seventy-one died and the walls around the gate were stained with blood.

Two months later, two River Plate directors, Américo Di Vietro and Marcelino Cabrera, were sentenced to jail for negligence after a trial regarding their roles in running the stadium’s security operation. At the end of November that year, however, both men were cleared on appeal. The following year, the case was archived, and the file hasn’t been reopened since.

Ten years and two days after that, the Monumental saw one of its greatest celebrations, as I’ll be writing on Wednesday. But three decades on from that, the events of ten years prior to Argentina’s World Cup win are still seared into the collective memory of the nation.

4 thoughts on “The tragedy of Gate 12

  1. Waaaaaaaaaaaay off topic but since this is the latest post, I though I write this here.

    I just been in the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires (old and traditional neighbourhood that used to be very dangerous in the 80’s but now is fashionable, full of tourist, foreign students, restaurants and youth hostels) and I’ve seen Martín Palermo getting off of his incredible BMW to get in a restaurant.

    Who was with him? Mr. Migliore!

    Hence…you’ve got to believe the reports that suggest Martín is not friends with Roman Riquelme.It’s been said that Migliore almost gets involved in a fist fight against Riquelme and they don’t speak to each other anymore.

  2. This is all so eerily like Hillsbrough and Heysel. It happened before I was born, but even in those insular times, I checked the London Times newspaper archive for June 24 and it was on the front page. An eye-popping 100, 000 attendance for the match. Not mentioned in El Gráfico’s report, but in the paper is the fact that some (presumably River) fans were tossing burning paper at the fans leaving, sparking off the stampede. I must admit that I hadn’t heard of this before, but I can imagine it would be very much in some Boca fans’ minds every time they play River.
    I wonder how the rest of football reacted. Were there postponements, were there silences?
    I still find it strange that, as far as I recall, football outside of Liverpool just carried on as normal immediately after Hillsborough.

    I must say, El Gráfico is brilliant at looking at the history of the Argentine game. It’s brilliant in general. About ten years ago, I was in the Argentine Embassy in Dublin, which is basically a little suburban house. Me and some friends were waiting for Ivan, a guy who worked there and had got tickets for the Ireland-Argentina game that evening.
    In a kind of waiting room were rows of bound volumes of old El Gráficos, going back to about 1973. It was fascinating. I wish I could have taken them home.

  3. Hi Seba-so you are slumming in my neighborhood !! Very interesting about Martin and Pablo “where’s my head” Migliore. I noticed when watching the celebrations of Boca’s many goals Sunday, that the usual joy one sees, was not evident between Palermo and Roman, or between Palacio and Roman. My guess is that Roman has drifted into one of his “me against the world” mindsets, and has irritated some teammates along the way. What a shame, for Roman, Boca and it seems it has maybe bled over into the seleccion as well.

    And on a semi related topic-does anybody believe there is a chance in hell that Coco would try Palermo as the #9 ?! There continue to be some rumors in that area. And, does anybody think that Palermo would be a decent addition ?! Too old, too slow and as we know can’t make a penalty kick. But, you can’t find a better target in the area.

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