In the wake of the Heysel Stadium disaster, the stars of heavy metal came together to raise money for the victims in the only way they knew: via a power ballad

Police on the field at the 1985 European Cup Final, plus the cover art from the European Team's Sport Alive
(Image credit: Liverpool Echo/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Football has had more than its fair share of tragedies, and the evening of May 29, 1985 produced another. English giants Liverpool faced Italian side Juventus in the final of the European Cup at the ill-prepared Heysel stadium in Brussels, and 39 fans lost their lives after Liverpool fans rushed their Italian counterparts and a wall collapsed. 

In the wake of the disaster, as is so often the case, musicians combined their forces to record a charity record to raise funds for the victims. And, like Ronnie James Dio's Hear 'N Aid project and Swedish Metal Aid – both of which raised money for famine relief in Africa – it was heavy rock musicians who led the way. 

Italian superstar Edourdo Bennato – a blues rocker who'd headlined Milan's iconic San Siro stadium in 1980 – called the shots, corralling English musicians in a way that was as ambitious as it was conciliatory. The European Team's choir included some stellar names (members of Uriah Heep, Motörhead, Girlschool, Slade and Venom) alongside some lesser lights (Alaska, Heavy Pettin', Warlock, Rock Goddess, Robin George, Pallas, Rogue Male, Waysted, Lionheart and Shy), as well as Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and future Bad Company vocalist Brian Howe, plus Deborah Bonham (sister of Led Zeppelin man John) and Scottish pop singer Natasha England, best known for her 1982 cover of the New Orleans classic Iko Iko

Sport Alive's lyrics are attributed to the entire cast, and it's probably fair to say that, while writing words that captured the full trauma of an event as dreadful as Heysel cannot have been easy, even Midge Ure (author of Band Aid's Do The Know It's Christmas?) might have baulked at Sport Alive's opening couplet. 

Early night a screen of blood / I'm feeling sad
Blinded victims of a lemmings fight

After a chorus that calls for unity and an end to football-related violence, Edourdo Bennato sings an Italian version of the lyrics. And, with the song a none-more-eighties power ballad, there's guitar solos a-plenty, especially on the seven-minute extended version. 

Sport Alive was released on 7" and 12" by Belgian heavy metal label Mausoleum. It failed to chart, which presumably limited the amount of money it was able to raise for the Fund For Brussels, set up by football's European governing body UEFA to assist the Heysel victims' families. Perhaps that's why it's been largely forgotten, unloved and uncelebrated by those involved.  

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.