Football: Footballers grounded by fear of flying

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The Independent Online
DENNIS BERGKAMP is one of the few who actually refuse to, but the truth is that many footballers throughout the ages have had a deep- seated fear of flying.

Having surived the Munich air crash in 1958, it was entirely understandable that Bobby Charlton should suffer terrible anxieties when he had to fly in the years that immediately followed. Partly as a result of that tragedy perhaps, reporters travelling with teams in the 60s recall many players suffering similair anxieties, none more so than Jimmy Greaves, both with Spurs and England.

It was a common occurrence in those days for the team to lead a spontaneous round of applause once the plane had taxied to a standstill having landed safely.

For all the frequency of flying in the modern game, many current players still suffer when flying. Middlesbrough's Paul Merson has spoken of his fears and revealed that alcohol was one way he used to conquer them - a method no longer open to him now that he is teetotal.

West Ham's Stan Lazaridis is another with a fear of flying, which is particularly unfortunate given that he plays for Australia.

Bergkamp's fear of flying began when members of the Ajax youth side were killed in a crash in Surinam, but made worse by a couple of incidents during USA 94 after which he refused to fly again.

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