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By ESPN Staff

Benitez: Tragedy must never be forgotten

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has explained how he has come to understand the full extent of the Hillsborough disaster.

Anfield's manager, now 49, was coaching Real Madrid's youth teams in Spain when the tragedy happened on April 15, 1989, leading to the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters.

With the 20th anniversary of the disaster coming up on Wednesday, Benitez said: ''In Spain we didn't really realise the real problem initially, but after hearing the stories on the news we then realised the full extent.

''But after I became Liverpool manager in 2004 I have received a lot of information from the people and staff at the club, so it has helped me understand just how important it is for the people here.''

Now Benitez believes Liverpool's foreign players should also fully understand the tragedy that has changed the face of the club and football in England.

He said: ''It is important not just for the foreign players but everyone in football. It was a tragedy that was so important, it is vital it is remembered.

''I think that for the fans of football in any country, for any club, it is important to remember what happened.''

Benitez is a strong family man, and he says: ''You look at your own daughters and imagine what it would be like for yourself, it is then you realise what a disaster it would be to be involved in something like that.

''You think about this when you are reading the names (of the 96 who died), you see the families and you can see what it means for everyone.

''I have been really impressed with the families and the effort they are putting into retain good memories of the victims of Hillsborough.

''The families are doing really well trying to keep the good memories of the people, and you can see the staff here have always been there for them, and will always be there trying to support the families, the club will always be behind them.

''The first time I attended the memorial service I was amazed to see the people and the respect they showed. Every year when we go it is similar because you can feel what the families are feeling.''

Boyhood Everton fan and now Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is also determined to make sure that the memory of the 96 who died is never forgotten.

''It is essential that we don't forget, it is something that we have all got behind over the years,'' he said. ''It changed the face of football with the type of stadiums we have and the way people watch football now is probably down to the tragedy, which is a sad thing but hopefully it will never happen again because of those reasons.

''It is something we will never forget, we will hold the memorial at Anfield every season, and rightly so. We should never forget and we realise what it means to the club.''

This year the families of the 96 who died have received the freedom of the city, and Carragher said: ''They have conducted themselves superbly.

''You always put yourself in their shoes, having children of my own. I don't know if I could have behaved as well as them, I know that your kids are your life.

''For people to send family and friends away to a game and for them to not return is a terrible thought. It terrifies you just thinking about it, so what those people have gone through is unbelievable and the way they have behaved is impeccable. And they are still fighting for things in the right way.''


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