Sir Bobby Charlton survived the Munich air disaster to become one of the most renowned players in world football, an ambassador for his club and country. His personal recollection of the crash, as told in an exclusive interview with MUTV, begins with the fateful European Cup fixture away in Yugoslavia...
The battle of Belgrade
The two games against Red Star Belgrade were tight. We were only a goal ahead after the home game, which was strange because we normally took control at home. Confidence was high that we could beat them, but they had good players like Šekularac and Kostic, who scored from a free kick, bending it over the wall. We were ready for the tie because we’d had tough games already. But when we were drawn against Red Star it was a new challenge for us because we’d never played anyone from that part of the world before. They were very efficient and had a volatile crowd. But we were well prepared and within the first half hour were 3-0 up against one of the best teams in Europe, and this was to get into the quarter-finals!
The pitch was bad. It was muddy, it had been drained and had thawed, but there was a crust of snow and ice on the top - making the ball ping about. It was great for shooting, though. And then we started cruising, taking things easy and got ourselves into all sorts of trouble. I think it was inexperience, playing in Europe was new to us. Back at home, we’d never lose a three-goal lead. Then, with five minutes to go they equalised and it was very tense, thankfully the referee blew his whistle and we were through - it was fantastic.
The crash at Munich
The weather was bad. There was snow on the runway and the facilities airports have these days were not available. The pilot had three attempts at taking off. After two we came back and stayed in the airport. Eventually the officials said it was okay to go. The slush on the runway was the problem. The plane, the Elizabethan, took a long time to take off as it needed a long runway but it didn’t make it. Even now it’s hard to take in.
We went through the outer fence and everyone knew then something wasn’t right. It was a dreadful thing, the worst thing