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57 years after plane crash

Sir Bobby Charlton: ‘Thank you, Bayern Munich’

He is a living legend: Sir Bobby Charlton. Knighted by the Queen, World Cup winner and European Cup winner to name just a few of the great achievements of the 77-year-old. His visit to the FC Bayern Erlebniswelt on Friday afternoon was not about titles and trophies. The former Manchester United captain visited the Allianz Arena on the anniversary of the biggest catastrophe in the history of the Manchester club and one of the darkest chapters in the history of world football.

Sir Bobby Charlton was accompanied by his wife Lady Norma, Munich mayor Dieter Reiter, FCB chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and FCB administration council member Hermann Memmel at the unveiling of a permanent memorial at the Erlebniswelt on the 57th anniversary of the tragedy of the air disaster at Munich Airport that claimed the lives of many of the legendary Busby Babes.

“It was a terrible accident. Some of the best players lost their lives,” said a clearly moved Charlton, then aged 20, who was one of 21 out of 44 passengers who survived the crash “without serious injury”. On 6 February 1958, in poor weather, the plane carrying the Manchester United team, officials and journalists crashed at the third attempt to take off from the Munich airport. The team, led by legendary manager Matt Busby, landed in Munich to refuel on the flight home from a European Cup tie in Belgrade.

“It’s a dark day in the history of Munich, football and Manchester United,” said Reiter. Rummenigge spoke of a “sad day. All you can feel is deep mourning, huge sympathy and deep commitment. But I see it more as a friendly turn rather than a duty to stand side-by-side with our friends from Manchester.”

Memmel was the moving force behind the siting of a memorial in the Munich suburb of Trudering in 2004. Shortly after that, the location was renamed Manchester Square and it soon became a pilgrimage site for Manchester United fans. “It’s incredible how many fans still visit the memorial,” explained Memmel. Flowers, scarves, photos and letters are placed there. Some of these can be seen in the Erlebniswelt that now houses a replica of the memorial.

“Thank you, Bayern Munich,” said Charlton in gratitude that the 1958 disaster is still remembered in Munich. “We’re happy to be here. I’m proud to have so many friends at Bayern Munich and in Munich.” The memorial at the Erlebniswelt is also testament to the special bond between FC Bayern and Manchester United