KARL SUNDSTROM / AIPS** —- There is a light that never goes out at Old Trafford. To enter the stadium you walk past darkness and light. You walk past the horrors of death, collective grief and pain as well as glory, unity and love. You walk past the history of Manchester United Football Club and everything you need to know about it.

You’ll see the statue of the man who was there during United’s darkest moment and the brightest 10 years later: Sir Matt Busby.

Opposite to the great manager stand the statues of the holy trinity, George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton, arm-in-arm. Walking towards the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand you see a memory plaque and a clock that’s been frozen at four minutes past three.

The last line-up (from left): Edwards, Colman, Jones, Morgans, Charlton, Viollet, Taylor, Foulkes, Gregg, Scanlon, Byrne.

When you’re walking through the Munich Tunnel there’s a light in the darkness. A forever burning candle that represents the ones who lost their lives after what happened at 3:04pm on a cold and bitter day 60 years ago.

Manchester United will always be about what happened at the runway in Munich on February 6, 1958. It’s the path to its history and the key to their future.

In a post-war era the youthful team of Manchester United – hailed as the Busby Babes – represented pride and hope for the future. Sir Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy had built a “bunch of bouncing Busby Babes that deserved to be knighted” as the popular old song had it.

The Babes had won the league two years in a row with its attacking-minded free-flowing football and was starting to make their mark in Europe as the English pioneers in the European Cup.

Work in progress

After the quarterfinal in Belgrade 1958, where United eliminated Red Star, the mood was euphoric. The previous season a brilliant Real Madrid side had beaten United and the feeling was that Matt Busby’s aces still had work to do to be able to beat the very best. This season the feeling was different: United were good enough.

What happened next is one of the darkest chapters in football history. On their way home to Manchester the plane stopped in a cold and snowy Munich to refuel. After two failed attempts to start in the difficult conditions it was decided to make a third attempt.

The plane accelerated slowly but crashed through a fence, continued out on the road and in to a house. Some died instantly, others later in  hospital. In total 23 people lost their lives – among them footballers, sports journalists and staff of Manchester United, crew, a travel agent and a supporter.

Among the 21 survivors was Busby, three journalists and photographers. One was News Chronicle reporter Frank Taylor, who would go on to serve as AIPS president from 1973 to 1977 and then again from 1981 to 1993.

Global interest

Following the accident United started to become a phenomenon of global interest. The heartbreak of United and Manchester became one for the world and in the Munich Tunnel, next to the candle, there’s a quote stating, “Before the tragedy at Munich, the club belonged to Manchester. But afterwards, Manchester United captured the imagination of the entire world.”

So how will the world remember?

Duncan Edwards, an astonishing talent, was born 82 years ago in Dudley, the heart of the Black Country in the West Midlands. The 21-year old England and Manchester United left half died 15 days after the accident, at Rechts der Isar Hospital.

From last January there’s an exhibition with pictures and words about him in Dudley and on February 21 – 60 years since his passing – there will be a tribute dinner.

Gala event

“We wrote a book about him and last year we started talking about the 60th anniversary of his passing. To someone that was such an iconic figure in the area, there wasn’t much to be found about him,” Jim Cadman, who is organising the tributes, told AIPS.

After the book was published in 2001, Edwards mother Sarah Ann Edwards, during a gala dinner, begged Cadman to “make sure that folks in the Black Country never forget my Duncan.”

Cadman said: “It’s important that his heritage is recognised. Also we made a promise to his mother, to keep his memory alive. So we started collecting memorabilia, photos and match reports. We can’t let the cultural and sporting heritage that he created be allowed to fade.

“That’s why we worked so closely with the primary school that he went to. Children are studying Duncan during their social history lessons now.”

Memorial flag

A fundraiser reached its target of £7,500, which will finance an inscribed bench at the Manchesterplatz Memorial in Munich and a 60th memorial flag. The money will also be donated to the Libero and Buntkicktgut youth football project in Munich and the Duncan Edwards Foundation.

The accident in Munich may belong to the past, but the memory lives on forever in Manchester and around the world.

Students in Salford rent flats in the Eddie Colman court, children in Dudley learn about Duncan Edwards’s childhood dreams of Wembley and wherever the Reds play in the world – whether it’s in Rome or Mandalay – supporters will tell the boys that they are there by singing about the Busby Babes.

New generations are entering Old Trafford to watch a team that has turned from a local to a worldwide phenomenon, a club that’s been through hell and also given millions of supporters from all over the world many of their most beautiful memories.

None of the glory days would have been possible without the Busby Babes. Let us never forget the flowers of English Football. Let us never forget The Flowers of Manchester.

More reading:

TomCable, cabin steward

Victims of the Munich Air Disaster

44 people were on board at the plane that was supposed to take off from Munich and fly to Manchester: 23 of them died, 21 survived. Two of the players, Jackie Blanchflower and Johnny Berry, never played football again as a result of their injuries.

When Manchester United won the European Cup ten years later, two of the survivors Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes, started for United. Matt Busby, who also survived, was the manager and was knighted the same year.

Manchester United players:
Geoff Bent
Roger Byrne
Eddie Colman
Duncan Edwards
Mark Jones
David Pegg
Tommy Taylor
Liam Whelan

Manchester United staff:
Walter Crickmer, club secretary.
Tom Curry, trainer.
Bert Whalley, chief coach

Donny Davies, Manchester Guardian
George Follows, Daily Herald
Alf Clarke, Manchester Evening Chronicle
Tom Jackson, Manchester Evening News
Archie Ledbrooke, Daily Mirror
Henry Rose, Daily Express
Frank Swift, News of the World

Eric Thompson, Daily Mail

Kenneth Rayment, co-pilot

Bela Miklos, travel agent
Willie Satinoff, supporter

** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com