Today, February 6th, sees the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich air disaster.
The story of the disaster is well known and it’s understandable that Manchester United, and others who were connected to that day, should want to make special efforts to commemorate it’s fiftieth year
Manchester United plan to mark the occasion in a number ways, today there will a service at Old Trafford, however the one that has attracted to most attention are the plans for when they play Manchester City this weekend. There will a minutes silence before the game. United will wear a replica of their 1958 kit without the players’ names or numbers on the back. City’s kit will have a black ribbon with their sponsor’s branding removed.
There will also be a minutes silence before England’s match with Switzerland tonight.
Despite the efforts of Sven-Goran Eriksson and The FA, many question whether a small minority Manchester City and England fans will respect each minute’s silence. Sadly this is an all too common occurrence these days. It’s not just City and England, every club has it’s nutters, and to get round this many resort to a minute’s applause however, in the case of Munich silence, to remember, seems more appropriate.
Any fans who are tempted to disrupt the silence should learn from Liverpool’s experience.
I can only vouch for this during the time I was watching Liverpool and not before however, during the lates 70s and 1980s a minority of Liverpool fans took great delight in baiting the Manchester United fans about Munich. This manifested it a number of ways not least the “Who’s that lying on the runway?” song. I won’t repeat the lyrics but those of you who watched Liverpool around that time cannot have failed to have heard it. Other incidents that spring to mind are fans standing on crush barriers in the away end at Old Trafford arms outstretched to imitate aeroplane wings singing “The Dambusters” tune. And, in same end, throwing paper planes and in one case, when it was the fashion for a while, an inflatable aeroplane.
We were not alone with the Munich references, ask Leeds fans, however this flies in the face of what the club prides itself on in relation to the opposition. We applaud their keeper when he runs up to Kop end to take his position. We can applaud sides off the pitch if they have beaten us at Anfield. We have a strong sense of fair play and what is right and wrong as seen recently by the outrage caused by “Klinsmannsgate”. However, there was this. The Mancs are different and I hate them as much as the next Liverpool fan but it does not extend to celebrating in song the death of their players.
It is to our shame that it took the Hillsborough disaster to knock most of this nonsense on the head. “Where’s your famous Munich song?” chanted the Mancs fans the first time we met after 15th April 1989. There was absolutely no answer to that, only embarrassment or a hasty chant of the club’s name. Would we still be making Munich references to this day had it not been for Hillsborough?
After Hillsborough I remember visiting Anfield to see the tributes. There were many from Mancs fans, despite the way we have treated them over Munich. Thankfully these people were sensible enough to realise that it was a minority of Liverpool fans who were responsible for the abuse.
No doubt City and England fans will be in the same situation, it will be a minority that may try to disrupt the silence. However, it would a tragedy if City, England or any other team had to go through something like Hillsborough before the abuse stopped once and for all.