Stepney, Brennan, Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Best,
Kidd, Charlton, Sadler, Aston give their all
at Wembley; names to be forever blessed
for lifting Munich’s curse with their football.
They defeated England’s oldest ally
to lift that gleaming European Cup.
But why did eight Busby Babes have to die
a decade before? It does not add up.
Carnage was followed by celebration
when victory softened Matt Busby’s guilt.
But doomed youth was the price of obsession
as he brooded about the team he built
after it was shattered in ice and snow.
If only he had told the pilot “No”.
This year marks the 59th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster (6 February 1958) when a British European Airways plane crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway. As a seven-year-old, I watched the 1968 European Cup final between Manchester United and Benfica on a small black-and-white TV set. I did not appreciate the significance of United’s victory until years later. This sonnet is about two football matches played by Manchester United: the first, in 1958, ended in tragedy; the second, played 10 years later, was a memorable victory. The central figure in both was the team’s manager Matt Busby. The first match left him fighting for his life after being badly injured in the air disaster. He nearly gave up football as he brooded about the gifted team he built only to see it destroyed. His wife persuaded him to carry on; 10 years later he saw Bobby Charlton, another Munich survivor, lift the European Cup at Wembley. Busby’s guilt had been assuaged.