5 Aircraft disasters that jolted the football world

The history of football is marked by the history of air disasters. The latest, the disappearance of Emiliano Sala, 28, signed with English Premier League club Cardiff City for a reported £15 million ($19.3 million) from French club Nantes.


The striker fizzed-off in thin air as was returning to his new club after saying farewell to his former teammates in France. Now we take a look at aircraft disasters in which footballers and staff lost their lives.

Also Read: Emiliano Sala: Police call off search for the Argentine footballer

Torino football air crash (1949)

Image Credit: Economic Times

The Torino football air disaster occurred on 4 May 1949, when a Fiat G.212 of Avio Linee Italiane (Italian Airlines), carrying the entire Torino football team (popularly known as the Grande Torino), crashed into the retaining wall at the back of the Basilica of Superga, which stands on a hill on the outskirts of Turin. Thirty-one people died; there were no survivors. The Avio Linee Italiane Fiat G.212CP was carrying the team home from Lisbon, where they had played a friendly match with Benfica in honor of the Portuguese captain, Francisco Ferreira. In the incident, the whole Torino team (almost all of the Italy national football team) lost their lives. Club officials and carriers also perished in the accident, as well as the crew and three well-known Italian sports journalists.

Munich air disaster (1958)

Image Credit: AP

The football world came to stand-still on February 6, in 1958, as seven members of Manchester United football team were killed when their chartered airplane crashed at Munich’s Riem airport. The team, nicknamed the Busby Babes after manager Matt Busby, had won back-to-back First Division titles in the previous two seasons and was returning from a 3-3 draw with Red Star Belgrade which ensured United’s passage into the European Cup semi-finals for the second year running. On its way back to Manchester from Yugoslavia, the BEA Airspeed Ambassador plane had stopped to refuel in Munich. On take-off, it overshot the runway and hit a house and a tree before smashing through a hut, which exploded, before skidding to a halt. The pilot, James Thain, and surviving crew members began evacuating passengers with the help of United goalkeeper Harry Gregg, who had escaped with light injuries. The players that died on impact were Eddie Colman, 21, Liam Whelan, 22, David Pegg, 22, Mark Jones, 24, Geoff Bent, 25, Tommy Taylor, 26, and team captain Roger Byrne, 28. Pegg, Taylor, and Byrne were England internationals, while Whelan had represented Ireland.

Danish football air crash (1960)

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On 16 July 1960, after taking off from Copenhagen Airport, a de Havilland Dragon Rapide plane, chartered to the Danish Football Association, crashed into the Oresund about 50 meters from shore after the pilot lost control of the aircraft in severe weather. The plane was carrying eight association football players to Herning Airport for a final trial match at Herning stadium to select the Danish squad for the 1960 Olympic tournament. Three of the eight had been provisionally selected for the squad, the rest were B-team and youth internationals with the last chance to impress the selectors. All eight passengers died; the pilot survived but required a leg to be amputated.

Zambia football team air crash (1993)

5 Aircraft disasters that jolted the football world
Image Credit: Zambian Eye

Zambia national team was set to head to Dakar to play Senegal in a World Cup qualifier on April 27, 1993. The team’s flight path was to take it from Zambia to Brazzaville, Congo, to Libreville, Gabon and then to Abidjan, Ivory Coast before finally arriving in Dakar. The team never made it. In one of the most terrible tragedies in world soccer history, Zambia’s plane crashed, killing all 30 people on board: 18 players, 4 members of the coaching staff and medical team, the Zambian federation’s chairman, a journalist, and the entirety of the flight’s crew. Among the dead were some of the best that Zambia had to offer. Their coach, Godfrey Chitalu, was considered the greatest player in Zambia’s history.

Leicester City president’s helicopter crash (2018)

5 Aircraft disasters that jolted the football world
Image Credit: Sky News

After the match between his team and West Ham (1-1), the president of the English club Leicester City, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, met as usual in the lawn of the King Power Stadium to slip on board in his helicopter. But after taking off, the pilot lost control of the aircraft crashing into the parking lot of the stadium compound. The five people aboard died on the spot and Leicester still mourns the president who allowed them to write one of the most beautiful fairy tales of modern football, winning the Premier League in 2016.

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