An interview with Lars Olsen of the MUSC Scandinavia
“We expect a large turnout”
February 6 2023 marks 65 years since the Munich tragedy. This time United’s U13 team with staff will be there to honour the memory of the Busby Babes”.
Every year, some United supporters gather in Trudering, where the old airport in Munich was located. Where the tragic plane crash occurred almost 65 years ago with 23 dead including eight United players, two coaches and the club secretary.
Usually there are two or three hundred who show up. At the 60th anniversary celebration, there was a record number of people, between two and three thousand. Patrick Burns, who is the head of the official Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation (MMMF), expect a large turnout in 2023 as well.
– I’m guessing there will be around a thousand people this time. There will quite a few from our organisation. Some of us will first travel to Belgrade to present a plaque to the Metropol Hotel where United stayed in 1958.
Besides us, I know there will be official representatives from Manchester United, but I can’t say who yet. There will also be representatives from Bayern Munich. The city’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, will say a few words, and I am glad to say, for the first time United are sending a team from the academy to attend the ceremony. It is the U13 team with staff who will be present, Patrick Burns tells United-Supporteren, the magazine for Manchester United supporters club, Scandinavia.
The U13 team will be part of the official programme in Trudering on February 6th. All the boys have been asked to write a poem about the Busby Babes. Patrick will choose the best poem and the winner will be invited to the podium to read his poem aloud.
Just before the ceremony starts, a glass showcase with several memorabilia Busby Babes items will be officially opened. “Admittedly, it has been there for a couple of years, but due to the pandemic, we have never been able to officially open it. That’s why we’re doing it now,” explains Burns.
The annual memorial ceremony does not traditionally last particularly long, but Burns guarantees that it will be moving experience for all present.
“As always, we read out all the names of those who lost their lives in the terrible tragedy. Not just those who were there from United, but all 23. We lay wreaths. I ask the various organizations to come forward with a representative to lay down each wreath. This year there will be seven wreaths. I have put the limit on seven, but others can of course lay down their own wreaths and flowers after the ceremony is over,” explains Burns and continues:
“This time we will sing three songs. We start with The Red Flag, very fitting considering that Matt Busby in his hospital bed asked Jimmy Murphy to do that. Something Jimmy managed under almost impossible conditions. Then we sing all verses of Forever and ever. It’s a beautiful song that I don’t think many people know all the verses. We sing it with pride before we finish with Flowers of Manchester”, says Burns and adds that as usual they hand out the lyrics to the songs for those who want them.
“This is a pilgrimage. It’s something all Reds should do at least once in their lives.”
As he has done in recent years, Patrick Burns will lead the ceremony. He tells United-Supporteren that he is proud of the assignment, but at the same time feels humbled.
“I hope some of our brothers and sisters from Scandinavia will make the trip. This is a pilgrimage. I believe it is something all Reds should do at least once in their lives. My role is to try to make it a memorable pilgrimage for all who comes to Trudering. Give them something they can take back home and keep in their hearts for the rest of their lives” concludes Patrick Burns.
“We do it to honour the Busby Babes”
The memorial association works continuously to raise money for selected charitable purposes, but the backdrop for everything they do is to honour the Busby Babes.
Patrick Burns explains that the origins behind the Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation started in 2017. A few United supporters got together to make plans for how the 60th anniversary celebrations the following year could be a worthwhile event. “I took the main responsibility for the job. After a lot of work, we managed to make formal contact with the Mayor of Munich, the University Hospital of Munich, the Recht Isar Hospital, Bayern Munich and of course Manchester United.”
Thanks to the efforts of Burns and other passionate United fans, they became acquainted with surviving doctors and nurses who looked after Matt Busby and the players in 1958. These were among the guests of honour at the 60th anniversary celebration in Trudering.
“It was a huge success and we found that here we had an opportunity we simply had to take Manchester United’s history and our heritage should be important to every United supporter, regardless of age.”
MMMF was officially founded as a non-profit organization where all income they manage to raise goes to good causes. It has now become an official charity organisation in UK and therefore do not have to pay tax on the income.
“We give to a children’s organization in Munich that Mayor Dieter Reiter personally recommended. At Harry Gregg´s wish, we also decided to do something in Belgrade. Gregg believed that the people of Belgrade were the forgotten ones in the tragedy. We found a small children’s and youth club called FK Studenski Grad that we adopted and helps financially. In Manchester we have adopted a charity that supports homeless children and young people. An important part of the work there is to help these young people to get their own place to live so that they can get a good start in a normal adult life.”
“Quite recently, we have also made contact with a palliative care unit for children and young people at a hospital in Manchester. We contribute so that they can have some nice experiences in an otherwise difficult everyday life or, for some, perhaps a holiday trip.”
Thanks to financial support from the MMMF, a memorial bench was also placed in Manchesterplatz in Trudering at the 60th anniversary.
“We are by no means big, but I honestly think what we do is good. We always ensure integrity, and we always remember the main reason why we do this. We will never tarnish the name and reputation of the Busby Babes, Sir Matt or our football club. We are transparent about everything we do and where the money goes, what the various associations do with the money and what it means to them.”
“What we do will hopefully make people think well of the Manchester United family, but also think fondly of the Busby Babes who must never, ever be forgotten.”
Burns tells us that Jimmy Murphy’s son and Harry Gregg’s daughter are among the organisation’s Patrons, the same with 1968 hero John Aston and today’s academy boss Nick Cox.
Brian Kidd was recently appointed an Honorary President.
“We are privileged to be allowed to do this. What we do is promote the name of our football club and of the Busby Babes. Manchester United’s history and our heritage should be important to every United supporter, regardless of age. It is the tragic plane crash and how it changed our club that sets us apart from almost every other team in the world. As we lose people who were directly involved in the plane crash, we make sure their stories live on. I feel both humbled and proud to be allowed to do this.”
Source: United-Supporteren/ www.united.no