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Munich Remembered
by Clint Wayne
2008-02-06 09:41:09
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Today is the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster that claimed 23 lives, including eight ‘Busby Babes’, which ripped the heart from Matt Busby’s talented young team.

It was a tragedy that had a huge effect on English football as Manchester United were England’s pioneers in the fledgling European Cup and were returning home from a 3-3 draw with Red Star Belgrade that had put them through to the semi-final stage for the second year running.

BEA flight 609 made a scheduled refuelling stop in Munich in preparation for the last leg of the journey to Manchester. The weather was appalling as Pilot Captain James Thain made two abortive attempts to take-off but the aircraft was forced to return to the terminal.

On the third attempt the plane failed to gain height in the slush, slewed off of the runway crashed into a fence surrounding the airport and then into a house careering on for another 100 yards spinning around until it came to a silent halt. Sir Bobby Charlton recently recalled the silence on board as they attempted take-off and then a void until he came to on the ground outside the wrecked plane but still strapped into his seat.
The German authorities tried to put the blame on to the pilot but the lengthy inquest proved them wrong. Captain Thain was innocent but never flew again.

Five days before Munich, United had beaten Arsenal 5-4 at Highbury with a thrilling display of attacking football that they had made their trademark. It was a performance that typified the ‘Busby Babes’ playing with such flair and enthusiasm in outscoring the opposition.

In that twisted wreckage a huge slice of English football history was changed forever. Duncan Edwards the gifted star of the team would certainly have gone on to captain England and may well have lifted the World Cup in 1966 instead of Bobby Moore!
The fatalities were players Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Billy Whelan and Duncan Edwards, who survived for 15 days after the crash. Also included among the dead were three Manchester United officials, eight journalists, a travel agent, a supporter and two crew, including the co-pilot.

Among the 21 people who survived the crash were Matt Busby and nine of his players: Johnny Berry, Jackie Blanchflower, Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, Kenny Morgans, Albert Scanlon, Dennis Viollet and Ray Wood. Gregg was particularly heroic dragging Busby, some of his team-mates and two passengers clear of the wreckage. Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower never played football again.

There will be a minute's silence at both the England v Switzerland match tonight and at United’s home game with neighbours City. United have been granted permission to wear a special 1958 replica kit devoid of players’ names or numbers on their backs, while City will incorporate a black ribbon and with their sponsors branding removed. The clubs and players will respect the occasion… let's hope the fans will as well.


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Emanuel Paparella2008-02-06 12:21:12

Interesting article. Another uncanningly similar event in the history of international soccer is the loss in 1949, still not forgotten in Italy, of the entire 18 member “Torino Granata” team in an airplane crash. That team was the winner of four consecutive Italian national club championships from 1945 to 1949 and provided several of its members to the national team as well as a needed moral booster to the whole country in the period immediately following World War II.

Asa2008-02-08 10:08:46
Was the minute's silence respected on Wed night?

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