The Furiani stadium disaster was one of the worst tragedies to occur in French football history, when a stand collapsed killing 18 people and leaving more than 2,300 injured. It happened on 5th May 1992 before the Coupe de France semi-final match between SC Bastia and Olympique de Marseille.
At the time Bastia were in Ligue 2 and had made their way to the semi-finals by defeating Fesches le Chatel (1-0), Toulouse (2-0), OGC Nice (1-0) in the round of 16, and then beating AS Nancy on penalties in the quarter finals. Marseille had won Ligue 1 the previous season and were undoubtedly the ‘giant’ team that every team wanted to face, so after their defeats of Bordeaux (1-0), FC Istres (2-1), Valenciennes (2-0) and SM Caen (3-1) the semi-final tie was set up between Bastia and Marseille. Many of the Marseille players were part of the team that went on to win the Champions League the following season including, Abedi Pele, Didier Deschamps, Basile Boli, Marcel Desailly as well as OM heroes Jean-Pierre Papin and Chris Waddle.
To help ensure an even more hostile reception for France’s biggest team, Bastia’s club board decided to erect a temporary terrace in place of one of the old stands. The Tribune Claude Papi, could only hold 750 fans, whereas the temporary tribune would allow almost 10,000 fans in.
Bastia had already used temporary stands for their ¼ final victory over Nancy, but they wanted more for this game and they wanted bigger. Because of the short time between the Nancy game and the semi-final with Marseille, there wasn’t sufficient time to apply for the demolition of the Tribune Claude Papi, so it was arranged for the company of ex-Bastia President to demolish the stand secretly during the night.
The first company contacted to build the new temporary stand, pulled out stating they wouldn’t have enough time to complete the work, so a second company took the contract. To make work even more difficult a strike at the Port of Marseille meant that the delivery of some of the building materials was impossible. It was reported that the French Football Federation (FFF) refused to postpone the match, and so the building company sourced materials from within Corsica.
Work was still being completed on the new stand on the day of the game as the fire department deemed the stand to be insufficiently safe after an inspection.
It has since been reported that up to an hour before the game concerns were raised about the stability of the stand as supporters could feel it ‘rocking’, however, no action was taken as more supporters continued to arrive. During this time engineers were still tightening bolts and trying to repair minor defects at the base of the stand. However, at 8:20pm, just as the players were entering the pitch, the whole rear of the structure collapsed leaving thousands of fans, stewards and media representatives trapped or crushed in the wreckage.
In the immediate aftermath, those injured or dying were helped onto the pitch as other fans, officials and even players tried to help, treat and comfort those affected.
Many of those injured were eventually transferred from Corsica to Nice and Marseille on mainland France, and after much deliberation the French Football Federation decided to cancel the Coupe de France final. After an initial short investigation, it had been decided that a number of rules had been broken in the lead up to the Furiani disaster, particularly around the actual construction of the terrace. Many football fans and relatives of those who were injured or died still feel that justice has not been done, as those trialled and found guilty a year after the disaster, were all given what were perceived as negligible fines and minimal sentences of less than 2 years.
The disaster did lead to a review and change in the rules and safety in ground construction, particularly around the use of temporary structures. Both sets of supporters and teams usually mark each game with a sign of respect for those who lost their lives or were injured on 5th May ’92, including banners with messages from the ultra groups, many of whom call for no games to be played on the anniversary of this tragic event.
The Furiani 18:
Campana Marie-Pierre (nee Clement)
Ottaviani Marie-Laure (nee Guerrieri)
As many have said about disasters, no one should ever go to a football game and never return. To those who didn’t return; Rest In Peace.