When the worlds of tragedy and football come together it usually involves the death of supporters: Heysel, Hillsborough, Bradford. But Munich is different. When the small British European Airways plane crashed at Munich airport in poor weather on 6 February 1958, it wiped out the heart of a team. And not just any team. These were the "Busby Babes" of Manchester United, widely regarded as one of the most promising sets of footballers ever assembled in Britain. They were returning from securing a place in the semi-finals of the European Cup after beating Red Star Belgrade. Munich was a fatal stopover.
Among the casualties was a young man from Dudley called Duncan Edwards, who has been described by Sir Bobby Charlton (who survived the crash) as "the best player I ever played with or against". When one considers that Sir Bobby himself went on to become a World Cup winner, a European Cup winner and England's record goalscorer, one begins to grasp the scale of what was destroyed when that plane came down in the Bavarian snow.
The scars of the tragedy were lasting for Manchester United. Red parts of Manchester still feel the pain of the loss of those talented players. But the Munich air disaster was not merely a tragedy for one city. It was a bitter blow to football and indeed the nation.
There were other plane crashes that year. Indeed, air travel was considerably more dangerous in the 1950s than it is now. But Munich is the disaster that those who were alive at the time have never forgotten. Half a century on, we commemorate with them.Reuse content