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Sitdown Sunday: British football's forgotten tragedy

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

The crushed barriers at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, where 66 people died after the crowd disaster in 1971.
The crushed barriers at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, where 66 people died after the crowd disaster in 1971.
Image: PA

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Lost days of Bergamo

A look at the pressures the Italian province of Bergamo was under in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

(The New York Times, approx 18 mins reading time)

Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, publicly turned to a committee of scientific advisers, which formally proposed that he follow the example of Lodi and shut down the newly infected towns in Bergamo. Privately, though, national business lobbies urged him not to close the area’s factories.

2. The Godfather, Coda

How Francis Ford Coppola got called back in to make this re-released movie.

(The New York Times, approx 15 mins reading time)

The history of this “Godfather” movie is as sweeping and dramatic as the much-told tales behind the creation of its two illustrious predecessors, full of conflict, perseverance and decisive last-minute changes. It is a legend that seemingly ended with a fatally flawed result — but now has a new untold chapter that could improve the standing of the final film in one of the most influential franchises of all time.

3. British football’s forgotten tragedy

In 1971, 66 fans were killed during a crush at a Rangers v Celtic game in Scotland. 

(The Guardian, approx 21 mins reading time)

Several fans on the steep, wide and dilapidated stairway 13 tried to get back up to join the wild celebrations, just as thousands of others – singing, chanting and, in many cases, drink-fuelled – moved towards the stairs to leave. This was a time when football fans were used to standing closely packed on the terraces, and took crushes on stairways for granted. But these five flights were dangerous at the best of times. Millions of feet had worn down the long, narrow dirt steps, leaving their wooden rims exposed and easy to trip over.

4. Everything you need to know about Mank

If you haven’t watched David Fincher’s latest film yet, here’s a primer. 

(Vulture, approx 11 mins reading time)

Although the notorious McCarthyist witch-hunt era began in earnest after WWII, the stirrings began in Hollywood much earlier. During the Roosevelt years, many progressives would join the Communist Party, which positioned itself at the forefront of anti-fascism in an era that saw the rise of Mussolini and Hitler. Simultaneously, conservatives like John Wayne and Walt Disney would form the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a group of film-industry figures willing to out their colleagues as communists to Congress. William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper mogul and inspiration for Charles Foster Kane, found himself on one side of this political divide (the right), while artists like Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles very much found themselves on the other (the left). It’s no surprise they were eventually headed for collision.

5. The mystery of the Gatwick drones

This London airport was closed for two days when people reported seeing drones. But no culprit was ever found.

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(The Guardian, approx 20 mins reading time)

By midnight, 58 flights had been diverted or cancelled. But there hadn’t been any drone sightings for an hour, and Gatwick tried to reopen the runway. And then, suddenly, the drones reappeared. “We had the feeling that it was going to last all night,” I was told by a former Gatwick employee who did not want to give her name. She was right: into the next day, every time staff prepared to reopen the runway, more sightings were reported. Staff and police speculated that the drone operator had gained access to the flight radar system, or was somehow listening into police or airport communications.

6. Castles in the sky

A couple renovating a house find a diary, which tells of a century-old love story, and a mystery.

(The Atavist, approx 30 mins reading time)

I opened the cover and saw in elegant handwriting the name Hans Jorgen Hansen and the year 1900. It was a diary belonging to the man who built our house. As I turned the pages, I noticed that someone else had written on them, too, a woman named Anna. How unusual, I thought, for two people to share a diary—even more so because, according to historical records, Hans’s wife was named Christine. 


Irish journalist Jonathan Spollen disappeared while on a visit to India. In 2017, a former colleague of his wrote about the search.

(BBC, approx 15 mins reading time)

As a child growing up in Ranelagh, a middle-class suburb in the south of Dublin, he was especially caring towards his dying grandmother: as she hallucinated mice running along her curtains, he understood what he had to do, and carefully removed the invisible mice before putting them in a bin. While in Beirut airport in his mid-20s, he saw a Filipina maid being scolded by officials for bringing along too much luggage, so he paid her $300 fine on the spot. Later, when he had moved to Hong Kong, he encountered a woman sleeping on a park bench and in distress having lost her identity papers. Jonathan offered her his room without hesitation.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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