Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Munich Air Disaster - A tribute

That, to me, was the beginning of the Manchester United legend and her world-wide appeal.

Even as early as 1974, I was fascinated by the Munich Air Disaster.

For some reasons, if my memory serves me right, there seems to be a lot of stories in the New Straits Times in the 70s about everything Manchester United and how Manchester United practically lost the whole team when the plane carrying their players crashed upon take off at Munich killing 23 people in February 1958.

Of course I knew nothing of the incident - I was not even born then, beyond what I have read from the news, but for Manchester United to rise from the ashes of the Municah tragedy, literally, to win the 1968 European Cup was nothing short of a miracle.

Phoenix bangkit, kata M.Nasir.

The legend of Duncan Edwards, and the Busby Babes fascinated me so much that I grew up following Manchester United.

Later on George Best, the fifth beatle, was the name of the game in the 60s for United.

In the late 90s, manning the Hyprotech booth at the Jakarta Convention Centre for an oil and gas exhibition, I had a chat with a Scot who was a United follower. Knowing that I also follow United, he thought that I was a glory hunter since the 90s were United's glorious decade.

I don't blame them, but although I believe it is none of their business how and why we follow certain team. I guess it is like no one can tell us who we can fall in love with, or get married to. One would not need to justify it!

But he admitted later that he was wrong with his assumption.

My saving grace was that I could list down all the players in the not-so-glory years of the 70s (and I don't have to search Wikipedia to confirm them). Alex Stepney, the goalkeper; Martin Buchan (captain and defender), Lou Macari (Midfielder); Sammy McIllroy, Stuart Pearson (striker); Jimmy and Brian Greenhoff, Joe Jordan, Gordon MacQueen, and later on the 80s, Norman Whiteside who scored in the 1985 final with a curling ball in the game against Everton, Paul McGrath and the likes.

Bryan Robson (Robbo aka Captain Fantastic) is too easy a name for me to quote. Everyone knows him.

Life at Manchester United then were like a roller coaster. I mean it is like a roller coaster sitting here on the ground, with no engine. It was demoted to the second division in 1974, went back straight up in 1975, went on to the FA Cup final in 1976, only to lose to a second division team, Southampton.

Life as a Manchester United fan then; it was a heartache (to quote Bonnie Tyler).

Of course the 1977 brought the joy of winning the FA Cup final - against the 'Pool. That win is more satisfying now than it was in the 70s due to the fact that the 1999 team would not have been the first team to win the treble had the MU team in 1977 not been able to overcome the 'Pool. Liverpool of course went on to win the European Cup (against Borussia Mochengladbach 3-1) to register a double having won the league a few weeks earlier.

I remember watching them at Bukit Jalil with the kids and I remember in the 1983 to have gone to the famous MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) to watch MU played the Australian Team. Of course the Malaysian selection was no match and lost 5-0; the Australian team did a bit better, losing 2-0 only.

But today is about the 1958 team. Unfortunately I have not seen many of them played, but the Busby Babes played a big role for me in making me an MU fan ( and not another club). I am told that Duncan Edwards would have been England's best player ever, and more.

Nonetheless, in the era gone by, there was little footage available of him.

In many ways, Manchester United owe it to him and the other who perished in the Munich air disaster for the fans like me to flock and support United.

To accuse us of being glory hunters would be blasphemous to their memories.


For a more comprehensive tribute, read Soccernet's The Busby Babes: Munich Remembered.

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