February 17 – Former Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg, hailed as a hero for his role in the 1958 Munich air disaster, has died at the age of 87.
The Northern Ireland international rescued a number of fellow survivors, including two of his teammates, from the wreckage of the disaster that killed 23 people including eight United players. Later the same year he helped his country to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
The Harry Gregg Foundation announced Monday that he died peacefully in a hospital, surrounded by family.
Gregg spent nine years with Manchester United, playing 247 times for the club. When he joined in December 1957 for £23,500 he was the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and was voted the best at the following year’s World Cup.
“It is with deepest sadness that we have learned of the passing of former player Harry Gregg,” Manchester United said in a statement. “Not only did Gregg survive the Munich air disaster but he also returned to the plane to rescue teammates and other passengers in an act of incredible bravery.
“He was back playing within a couple of weeks and had a remarkable career.”
Gregg was determined that the tragedy would not define his career, or indeed his life. “I would be telling lies if I said that I thought about it all the time. In fact I would go insane,” he said in 2018 before a service marking 60 years since the disaster.
Northern Ireland’s football governing body, the Irish Football Association called Gregg a “legend of the game and a brave, selfless giant of a man”.
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