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50th anniversary of Munich air crash

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  • Football pays tribute on the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster
  • Eight Manchester United players died when plane crashed on take-off
  • A total of 23 people were killed as Utd returned from cup tie in Belgrade
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LONDON, England -- Football will pay its tribute to the legend of Manchester United's Busby Babes on Wednesday in moments of remembrance on the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster.

A memorial stone recalls the place of the Munich air disaster in Kirchtrudering near Munich.

Eight players lost their lives on February 6, 1958, when Flight 609 ZU crashed on the third attempt to take off after re-fuelling in Germany as United returned from knocking Red Star Belgrade out of the European Cup.

Sir Matt Busby's side, back-to-back English champions and well positioned for a hat-trick attempt, were arguably on course to become the best United team.

The United players killed at Munich were Geoff Bent, aged 25, Roger Byrne(28), Eddie Colman (21), Mark Jones (24), David Pegg (22), Tommy Taylor (26), Liam Whelan (22) and 21-year-old Duncan Edwards who died in hospital 15 days after the crash.

They and the other 15 people who lost their lives will be remembered with a commemorative service at Old Trafford while a short ceremony, organised by supporters, will also take place at the memorial site in Kirchtrudering, on the outskirts of Munich.

In keeping with tradition, United supporters will also gather under the memorial plaque at Old Trafford where the clock is fixed at the exact time of the final fateful take-off attempt.

Later in the day, a minute's silence will take place ahead of England's friendly with Switzerland at Wembley as a further mark of respect.

As he bows his head during this week's Munich commemorations, survivor Harry Gregg's mind will understandably flash back to that snow-laden runway, but only briefly.

The 75-year-old Ulsterman prefers not to remember the afternoon he lost so many friends among the victims, but instead the days when the dream of the 'Busby babes' was still vibrant and alive.

Goalkeeper Gregg, hailed a hero in the wake of the crash after returning to the wreckage to pull out survivors, is adamant those are the times which always burn brightest in his memory.

"I was part of something that was a very, very beautiful thing at that time," said Gregg, who cost United a record 23,000 pounds sterling when he joined from Doncaster Rovers two months before the disaster.

"I'll always be proud of that. The fact there's going to be a minute's silence after 50 years is a tribute to the people I played with, but one must remember as well there were other people on board that aircraft, a lot more people.

"I want the minute's silence to be over and then I want to remember the happy times, that's what I want the world to remember, that's what I want the families to remember." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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