Memories of Munich: how today’s Brazilian tragedy affects us all

Chapecoense FC

Chapecoense FC

Graham Perry November 2016

Quite a few topical comments but let me remind you all of how we felt on 6 February 1958 when you learned of the Munich Air Crash. I mention this because for football people all over the world they will read today with mounting anguish of the reports coming through of that plane carrying a top Brazilian football team that has crashed into a mountain with few survivors. The film of the players shows them in their dressing room joyously celebrating a win – back slapping, singing, hugging – just happy, happy, happy. And now nothing – a desolate silence. Laughter gone. Life extinguished.

The UK was so affected by the Man U crash. It hurt us all and as many of you know just days before the crash United team including a half back line up of Coleman, Jones and Edwards – all three perished – had beaten AFC 5-4 in one of the most remembered Highbury matches of all time.

Football is about so many things but young players, together, happy enjoying their youth, their fitness, their football and then at a stroke the lights go out. Sometimes these tragedies need to remind us how lucky we are to enjoy ourselves following our favourite team. We are all in it together – Clubs, players, fans, families. It is society – it is community. It includes the programme sellers, the food providers, the railway staff, the hats and scarves sellers. Football is unique. It gives us such joy, such excitement, such disappointment, such frustration. Put all of that to one side and think now about today in Brazil and the parents, the brothers, the sisters, the children and the communities that will be so devastated by the news of the crash. Their school teachers, their Sunday school leaders, the doctors and sports support staff, the media, the shops, the restaurants, the bars – towns and villages all around. It touches everyone

I had intended to write about the Premier League, our form, our hopes for top place, Santi’s injury, uncertainty at right back, Andy Carroll, Pulis and his character destruction by a senior Judge and the rest – Chelsea’s incredible revival, the current setbacks of THFC and Man U and the hope that one day we will all be rid of Mourinho when he seeks work overseas but it is disrespectful. The mountains of Columbia are just around the corner.

It reminds me of a true life incident. A few years back I had become friendly with a Rabbi. He had followed soccer without knowing too much about the game and he came with me to a FA Cup match at Highbury against Leeds Utd. George was in charge at Leeds and he won the match. On the car journey to the ground we heard – but paid little attention to a newsflash about an air crash and turned of the radio. We talked and talked and at the end of the evening I dropped him off and made my way home – to bed and to sleep.

The next morning I learned that the air crash was a collision between two helicopters carrying Israeli soldiers. All died including one English boy whose parents lived in the area covered by the Rabbi. I learned that he had immediately gone to the home of the parents to comfort them and left them to return home at 4.30 am. He climbed into bed and quickly drifted to sleep – but only to be awakened by a young son. The Rabbi was initially irritated and told the child sharply to go back to his bed and then remembering the events of the night he reached out to his son and pulled him into his bed, gave him a hug and slept. He developed a well known sermon “Count Your Blessings’

And on occasions like this we should all count our blessings. Cherish what we have; curb the sharp retort; offer love and affection instead of rancour and bitterness. Too often we only know what we have lost when it is gone – no goodbyes, no final hugs. There and then gone. And this is how so many family members will feel this morning.

I don’t know the team or the Club or the players or the matches though the media will fill the gap with facts during today. Football is played all round the world and no one can expect to know the fortunes of teams in any country apart from your own. And yet none of this matters. Today tragedy and pain is heaped on the relatives of the players and officials of that team. So many parents and so many children will be stumbling around in a mental desert – a barren landscape of nothing as they struggle to adapt to the news. It’s not the day to worry about Cazorla or West Ham or the title chase.

Graham Perry

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One Response to Memories of Munich: how today’s Brazilian tragedy affects us all

  1. Colin Randall November 29, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

    Graham: a fitting and poignant article, summing up what all fans should feel about today and how those of us old enough felt in 1958. I republished a piece of my own about the Munich disaster in a small tribute to the poor players, officials, accompanying journalists and all other on board who perished in today’s early hours ..

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