The Busby Babes and The Munich air disaster


February 6th, 2016 marks the 58th anniversary of the Munich air disaster; it was one of the worst disasters in football history, it resulted in 23 fatalities and shook the entire football world.

The ‘Busby Babes’ was a name given to a group of footballers who played for Manchester United, under manager Sir Matt Busby. This name was given to the team because they were all really young, with an average age of just 22. They were all also very talented players. All of these players had been developed by the team itself and not bought from other teams, unlike teams today who spend millions of pounds buying players. The Busby Babes won the league championship in 1955-56 and 1956-57. Amongst some of the better-known names of the Busby Babes were Sir Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards and Billy Whelan. The Munich air disaster occurred on February 6th, 1958 when British European Airways flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway in Munich; on the plane were the Manchester United players, along with some supporters and journalists.

They were on their way back from a European Cup match in Belvedere, Yugoslavia against Red Star Belgrade. The flight had to stop in Munich to refuel on its way to Manchester. The attempted take-off from Munich was abandoned twice, but the pilot decided to have a 3rd attempt, this turned out to be fatal as the flight was unable to take-off because of snow accumulating on the runway, the plane then overshot the runway and crashed. There were 44 passengers on board out of which 23 died. The fatalities included: Duncan Edwards, Billy Whelan, Eddie Colman and Roger Byrne to name a few. There were some survivors from the crash, this included: Dennis Viollet, Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes and Sir Matt Busby. Some of the Surviving players never recovered enough to play again, this included: Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower. Sir Matt Busby was taken to the hospital; he was seriously injured and was in the hospital for 2 months, he was read his ‘last rites’ twice. He almost gave up football entirely, until his wife said to him “You know Matt, the lads would have wanted you to carry on.” After this, he returned to Manchester and watched the team play the 1958 cup final.

The team almost folded, after a lot of people at the club had died in the disaster including backroom staff. United won just 1 league game after the crash, and they fell to 9th position in the league, however, they reached the final of the FA cup losing to Bolton Wanderers 2-0, and even reached the Semi-Final of the European cup, losing to Milan.

Real Madrid went on to win their 3rd European Cup that year. Both Real Madrid and Red Star Belgrade suggested that the trophy is awarded to United that year as a mark of respect to the deceased, but this did not happen. Sir Matt Busby resumed managerial duties next season (1958-59), he eventually built a second generation of Busby Babes, and this included: George Best and Denis Law, and ten years later United won the European cup (1968-69) the first in their history. Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes were only surviving members of the squad from the Munich crash.

Aditya Malaviya| FollowYourSport