Former Manchester United player Bobby Charlton during a friendly between Yokohama Marinos and Manchester United played in Yokohama, Japan, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. EFE/Franck Robichon

Bobby Charlton, English soccer legend, dies at 86

Madrid, Oct 21 (EFE).- Robert “Bobby” Charlton, one of the great glories of English football, died Saturday at the age of 86. He won the 1966 World Cup with the England national team, and as a striker for Manchester United he won three English Premier League titles and the 1968 European Cup.

Bobby was born on October 11, 1938 in Ashington, North East England, into a family of famous footballers including his uncle Jackie Milburn (Newcastle).

His older brother Jackie (1936-2020) also played football, playing for Leeds United and later managing the Republic of Ireland national team (1986-96).

Bobby played for Manchester United from June 1953 to May 1973. He was the team’s top scorer, a record that was only taken from him in 2015 by Wayne Rooney, who had also taken his record as the national team’s top scorer two years earlier.

England’s Wayne Rooney (right) receives an award from Sir Bobby Charlton (left) after becoming England’ all time leading goal scorer at Wembley Stadium in London, Britain, 09 September 2015. EFE/EPA/WILL OLIVER

In 1958, he was on the verge of retiring from the game after the February 6, 1958 Munich Airport plane crash, which killed 23 people, including 8 players on the team returning home from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade. Charlton was one of seven players to survive.

Photograph from February 1958 showing England player Bobby Charlton recovering in a hospital in Munich, Germany, after the plane crash that killed eight players, two coaches and a manager of Manchester United on February 6, 1958. EFE/Klaus Heirler.
The wreckage of the Airspeed Ambassador aircraft after it crashed on February 7, 1958 in Munich, Germany. EFE/ Klaus Heirler

The striker went on to become one of the key players in rebuilding a young and beleaguered team. With the Reds, he won three English Premier League titles (1956-57, 1964-65 and 1966-67), the 1962-63 FA Cup, four Charity Shields (1956, 1957, 1965 and 1967) and the 1968 European Cup, which they won 4-1 in London over Benfica.

He made his England debut against Scotland on April 19, 1958, two months after the plane crash.

Charlton played in four World Cups (1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970), and in the 1966 World Cup, which England also hosted, the team won the title by beating West Germany 4-2 in the final.

His last appearance for England was on June 14, 1970. During his career, he made 106 appearances and scored 49 goals.

Charlton won the 1966 Ballon d’Or with 81 points in the 1965-66 season, in which he was also named the best player in the Premier League. He won the continental Silver Ball the following two years.

Manchester United squad with the 1968 European Cup. At the top and from left to right: Billy Foulkes, John Aston, Jimmy Rimmer, Alex Stepney, Alan Gowling, David Head. In the middle: David Sadler, Tiny Dunne, Shay Brennan, Pat Crerand, George Best, Francis Burns and coach Jack Crompton. Bottom: Jimmy Ryan, Nobby Stiles, Denis Law, Sir Matt Busby (Coach), Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd and John Fitzpatrick.

In June 1984, he returned to Manchester United to take over as manager. He was also involved in teaching children to play football at the Manchester Soccer School.

After visiting Cambodia in July 2007 to promote the game and campaign for greater efforts to eradicate landmines, he founded Find a Better Way, a project dedicated to developing technology to detect and eliminate landmines, which later became the foundation that bears his name, the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation.

British soccer legend Bobby Charlton (2nd right) looks at various mines and rockets during a visit to a landmine clearance center in Battambang province, Cambodia, July 25, 2007. EFE/Mak Remissa

In May 2008, Manchester unveiled a sculpture of three club legends, Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, known as the “Holy Trinity” of the iconic team, and placed it in front of the existing statue of manager Sir Matt Busby.

And in February 2016, the club renamed the South Stand at Old Trafford stadium the “Sir Bobby Charlton Stand.”

Queen Elizabeth II made him a Member of the Order of the British Empire (1969), and in 1994 he was knighted in the same order, taking the title “Sir.” He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester (2013).

In November 2020, it was announced that he was suffering from dementia, a degenerative disease also diagnosed in his brother Jack, who died on July 10, 2020.

He was married to Norma Ball, with whom he had two daughters, Suzanne and Andrea. EFE