The Tragic Fate of the Busby Babes

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3 years ago

Before the tragic fate of LaMia Flight 2933 on November 28, 2016, carrying the Associação Chapecoense de Futebol for their 1st leg of the final tournament of Copa Sudamericana 2016 as they face Atletico National of Colombia, on February 6, 1958, British European Airways Flight 609 was carrying the Busby Babes - Manchester United's nickname, along with supporters & journalists. The club was returning from a European Cup match in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia) as they advance to the semi-finals and eliminated Red Star Belgrade when tragedy strikes while they're about to take off on their 3rd attempt at Munich-Riem Airport, Germany.

UEFA Champions League was previously known as the European Cup, founded in 1955 and it was an annual football tournament organized by the Union of European Football Association which the top tier European Clubs of each country will go head-to-head from the group stages to a knockout format. It is one of the most prestigious tournaments in European football.

Manchester United 1956-1957. The Busby Babes.

Before "The Red Devils" there was "The Busby Babes" named after Matt Busby who accepted the offer as the gaffer of Manchester United on February 19, 1945, where he envisions creating a phoenix from those flames to their bombed-out stadium. Old Trafford (their home stadium) was bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War II, and they have no choice but to play their home matches with their rivals Manchester City at Maine Road. Matt Busby came from Bellshill, a coal-mining community in Lanarkshire, Scotland. The moment he became manager of Manchester United he dreamed of younger players until they were developed by the club itself instead of scouting other talents in the transfer window. They rose to fame as they won league championships from 1955 to 1957. Hence, the Busby Babes was born.

On February 3, 1958, Manchester United won against Red Star Belgrade as they advance to the semi-finals of the European Cup with a score of 3 - 3 since from their 1st leg the Busby Babes won 2 - 1 on their home soil. The following day, the players, staff, journalists, and supporters boarded their flight back to Manchester, England boarding British European Airways Flight 609. At 1:15 pm (Central European Standard Time), the aircraft used was an Airspeed Ambassador 2 that landed in Munich for a refuel. After the aircraft had been refueled the crew tried multiple attempts for take-off. The crew was eager to be on schedule instead of staying in Munich. For their third attempt, it was beginning to snow heavily as the end of the runway was formed to a layer of slush. When the aircraft hit the slush, it crashed through a fence surrounding the airport and into a nearby house. Flames began to ignite the plane and the house was caught in the fire. Fearing the aircraft might explode, the pilots began to evacuate all passengers while goalkeeper Harry Gregg helped pull survivors from the wreckage.

23 died in the process. Matt Busby survived the crash with fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and leg injuries, including Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, and Duncan Edwards - but died 15 days later (February 21, 1958) after the crash. As the whole nation mourns, the club was in danger of bankruptcy and it was a devastating accident.

Comparing it to the Chapecos, only 3 players survived the rest have died in the plane crash. It was very challenging for the club to recover when Atletico National pleaded to CONMEMBOL to give the trophy to Chape, which they did the confederation named Chapecoense as Copa Sudamericana 2016 Champions while Atletico was given the Fair Play award. Followed by a friendly match organized by FC Barcelona which is a fundraiser event and all funds will be used for the club for new signings, and other ventures. In Matt's case, he was depressed and heart-broken after the incident. Busby decided not to go back in the sides, but his wife told a few simple words that changed everything.

"You know, Matt, the lads would have wanted you to carry on."

- Jean Busby

Matt witnessed the final match of the '58 FA Cup Final but lost to Bolton Wanderers 2 - nil. Matt decided to go back for the following season. As he enlists fellow survivors Harry Gregg, Bobby Charlton, and Bill Foulkes. Charlton was the club's top goalscorer with 29 goals and finished runners-up in their domestic league. He also brought players from other clubs like David Herd and Denis Law to strengthen Matt's side. Matt rebuilt his roster as they won the '63 FA Cup Final scoring 3 - 1 against Leicester City. A year later, he enlists George Best with his debut of the club at 17 years old. Manchester United became league champions of '65 & '67. His biggest achievement 10 years after the plane crash, when Bobby Charlton leads his team as they won 4 goals to 1 against S.L. Benfica after extra time as they lift the European Cup of 1968.

The Munich Clock of Old Trafford

The tragic fate of the Busby Babes left a mark on English football, every year of February 6 as players both past & present, and fans gather at Old Trafford facing the Munich memorial plaque and the Munich Clock to pay respects to those who died. They would leave flowers, or poems, being there is just enough. In Munich, Germany, a memorial stands between the junction of 2 quiet streets, the exact spot where the plane crash happened 63 years ago. A rendition of the Flowers of Manchester pays tribute to the '56-'57 roster of Manchester United (video below).

Chape 2016 and Manchester United '56 - '57 including other clubs like Torino FC '49, Denmark's national football team of 1960, the C.D. Green Cross '61, FC Pakhtakor Tashkent '79, and others involving incidents carrying association clubs that are now playing Football in the heavens. Of which, I'll discuss this soon from their respective dates. Matt Busby's story tells us that if you're giving up already because your world is shattered into pieces, then it's time for us to get back on track and finish what we started. That is how life goes, you are born, you live, and you die, but always remember to count your blessings every time. The 8 players, including journalists & supporters, will be remembered.


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