May 5, 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of the tragedy at Stade Armand-Cesari in Furiani, French Corsica. Just before the French Cup semi-final match between Sporting Club bastiais and Olympique Marseille, the north stand collapsed. Nineteen people died and more than 2,350 were injured.
Although there is much more global media coverage of both the Heysel and Hillsborough tragedy, which did indeed claim more lives, the unfortunate events near Bastia (which is often forgotten) caused many more injuries. In the case of Heysel in Brussels, there were 600 injured (39 victims), while at Sheffield’s Hillsborough a staggering 97 people died, with 766 injured.
The semi-final match against OM was supposed to be a celebration for the whole of Corsica. Olympique Marseille, the national champion and previous European Cup finalist, was coming to the island. The visitors’ line-up was full of great names, including Didier Deschamps, Chris Waddle and Golden Ball winner, Jean-Pierre Papin.
SC Bastia's great performances in the 91/92 French Cup season meant that the demand for tickets among locals exceeded the number of seats in the stadium several times. Stade Armand-Cesari, the home ground of "Les Bleus" from Corsica, had a capacity of 6,250 in those days. Already during the quarter-final match against AS Nancy, a temporary stand was added, thus increasing the maximum capacity by around 2,500 seats.
Despite the stadium's limited seating capacity, Furiani (where the venue is located) had already seen overbooked crowds. In 1978 SC Bastia, who played there, reached the final of the UEFA Cup, losing in a controversial two-legged game to the more successful PSV Eindhoven. At that time, 15,000 fans sat in the stands!
A re-run was about to come when Marseille arrived on the island. In order to increase the capacity of Armand-Cesari by 50 % (8,000-9,000 more seats), the authorities agreed to build a 20-metre high north stand. However, this one could not hold the crowd eager for a victory over the guests from Côte d'Azur. Before the players arrived on the pitch, one third of the stand had already collapsed, and with it thousands of people.
Three decades have passed since the tragedy and many of the court decisions are still controversial. Of the 13 people tried, only one, Jean-Marie Boimond, the builder and technical director of Sud-Tribune company, was sentenced to two years in prison. Another eight people were fined.
As a consequence of the events in Furiani, a law has been approved in France according to which no league or cup game may be played on May 5 as a sign of respect for the victims. This law does not apply to international tournaments, as was recently proved by... Olympique Marseille, who that day took on Feyenoord at Velodrome in this year's semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.