Furiani’s drama 30 years later: “I am a living miracle”, Avi Assouly

On May 5, 1992, a stand collapsed in the Furiani stadium, in Corsica. That day, 19 people died and 2,357 were injured. OM commentator on France Bleu Provence, Avi Assouly is a survivor. He tells.

This Wednesday evening, at the Vélodrome, the players will wear a black armband and a minute of silence will be observed before the match OM-Feyenoord Rotterdam, in memory of the victims of Furiani. Thirty years to the day, after the biggest disaster in French football.

At the time, Marseillais Avi Assouly commented on OM matches on France Bleu Provence. VSand May 5, 1992, he is with 35 other journalists, in the midst of more than 8,000 supporters, in the hastily cobbled together temporary stand for the semi-final of the Coupe de France Bastia-OM at the stadium Armand Cesari. Fifty fractures, three weeks of coma, five operations, it’s a miracle of Furiani. He tells us about the moment when his life changed, that day, a few minutes before kick-off.

  • When you arrived at Furiani that day, everything was as usual?

“No, it wasn’t as usual, because we were tired, OM were on all counts, we were coming back from Europe, they were leaving for the Coupe de France, there was the championship. .. I usually leave the day before, we sleep there, and the next day we have the match, and there, I was so tired that I took the last plane to be in Bastia around 5:30 p.m.

The taxi came to pick me up, I dropped off my suitcase at the hotel, I took my Nagra and my accreditation at reception, and off I went to the stadium, to Furiani. There were a lot of people, I saw these things, these pieces of iron, these things… we said to ourselves “it’s still weird, it came together so quickly”. We said to ourselves, “well it’s fine, security has passed, the prefecture said ok, we said to ourselves it’s good”.

We trusted, we went up there… even, we were joking… I think it was Fasano who said to De Rocca, “you’ll give me a good paper saying that I was a great journalist” . And here we are, 17 meters high, among the supporters. And we were especially afraid of the agricultural bombs, of the public.”

  • How was the atmosphere?

“It was hot! Incredible! The atmosphere was very tense. It was very aggressive. Not hatred, but the people of Bastia who said “we are going to kill you, we are going to beat you”. public than disaster.

And then at 8:18 p.m., I hear the announcer saying: “don’t hit the metal structures, be careful, don’t hit”. People stamped their feet, he told them “stop”…

At 8:19 p.m., I put my hand like this, up, and some kind of board or iron fell. I thought to myself “what the hell is that?”. It was already starting to move.

And I have a little live at 8:20 p.m., because the match was at 8:30 p.m. I say “Hello, there’s the public, it’s hot, we can barely make out the players”. And I say something premonitory, I say: “I hope that at the end of the match, I will still be there”. In my mind, it was that they don’t hit me… if OM take a penalty… we were afraid of that and then, patatrac…”

  1. And after, it’s the black hole?

“I remember Alain Soultanian the physiotherapist, who came, who grabbed my hand, he said to me, ‘Avi, Avi, don’t go away, stay with us, I don’t want you to leave, stay with us. we.”

The players had taken me to take the helicopter. And I was taken to Ajaccio, to the Misericordia hospital, but I was unconscious. Pascal Olmeta even made a paper where he said “Avi, he died, they put the sheet on his face and the sheet moved”. And Tapie with Casoni, with Pascal, with the players, with Amoros, they sent me to Ajaccio. And I woke up 21 days later, in Marseille, at La Timone. I was in a coma for 21 days.”

  • You wake up and after?

“I wake up and I can’t remember anything, I know when I fell. It was bucket seats, I catch myself on them and see my whole life. I was 40 at the time and I saw my whole life go by, my brother, my sisters, their marriages, my parents… the birth of my son, my children… my whole life went by.

I woke up 21 days later, with everything you know, vertebrae…I thought I was even going to be paralyzed.. eight months later, I was in a wheelchair, that’s it.”

  • 21 days later, when you learn what happened, do you realize?

“Not even, I have a tracheotomy, tubes everywhere, I burst. I was left for dead.”

“Yes, it was Tapie who came to see us, I was listening but I couldn’t speak, I was close to paralysis.”

  • And today, 30 years later?

“In the book (Editor’s note: “Furiani, 20 years old”), ten years ago, I said I have 20 years of bonus. Today, I have 30 years of bonus. I am a living miracle .”

From now on, in memory of the victims, on May 5, no more football matches will be played in the first, second division, Coupe de France and Trophée des Champions.

On the judicial side, the builder of the temporary stand was sentenced to two
years in prison at first instance and he did not appeal. He is the only one of the 13 defendants initially prosecuted to have received a prison sentence.

At the end of the appeal trial in 1995, eight other defendants, including officials from the club, the Corsican League or the FFF, as well as the former chief of staff of the prefect,
were sentenced to suspended sentences or fines.

Furiani’s tragedy has also led the authorities to toughen up the controls of the temporary stands in terms of solidity of structures, personal safety and emergency response. The procedure is subject to the approval of the prefect after a positive opinion from the safety commission.

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