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Football and the First World War

I am currently writing a book on Football and the First World War based on the article of the same name on this website.

I am very keen to contact any football fans who have information about players who joined the army during the First World War.

Please contact me at


See reviews of Rob Cavallini's The Wanderers FC, and Around The World In 95 Games.

Manchester United win the European Cup

A decade after the Munich air crash which decimated one of the greatest sides in English football, three survivors of that terrible night engineered one of Manchester United's greatest performances in Europe.  Matt Busby, Bill Foulkes and Bobby Charlton led United out at an emotionally-charged Wembley on 29 May 1968 to face the mighty Benfica of Portugal which boasted the great Eusebio in their ranks.

The first half was episodic and fairly dull, as a spate of ruthless tackling by the Portuguese defence and a fussy Italian referee ensured that the game failed to sparkle.

The game finally came to life in the second half when Charlton opened the scoring after eight minutes with a rare headed goal.  Continued United pressure failed to extend their lead as the chances made on the left by John Aston, who had a magnificent game, went begging.

With nine minutes left, Craca scored for Benfica, and only Alex Stepney's heroics prevented Eusebio scoring the winning goal in the last minute.  With Benfica growing in confidence, Nobby Stiles admitted that the United players were glad to see extra-time: 'We were shattered and Benfica would have won had there been another 10 minutes. But then we saw that they were in an even worse way then ourselves - very much like the Germans in the World Cup'.

Three minutes into extra-time, Brian Kidd flicked on a Stepney punt and George Best pounced.  Steering the ball skilfully away from a couple of tackles, he made for goal with the Benfica defence in hot pursuit.  Best drew the keeper off his line and slide the ball into the net. 

Soon afterwards Kidd, on his nineteenth birthday, headed a third and then, with the crowd still cheering his goal, hurdled a scything tackle, kept his balance, and passed the ball into Charlton's stride which the United captain flicked into the far top corner of the net.

United were the first English club to enter the European Cup and now they were the first English team to win the trophy.  The night belonged to Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes, that last survivors from the Busy Babes who had begun the quest for Europe's greatest prize eleven years before.

See highlights of the match: