Saturday, April 17, 2010

Going down, going down… Bobby Charlton retired in 1973. His last match was in the summer Anglo-Italian club tournament. Perhaps nobody remembers it today, but it was played for a number of years from late 1960s to pretty much the end of the 1970s. There was no particular trophy and not even real cup structure: the whole concoction was cooked up with more financial than football aims – to provide semi-competitive excitement to the paying public during the depleted summer season. It was clear that no club would be really fit yet, so the tournament also served for training and team-building purposes. Some new players, some candidate players, some guys coming back from injuries… let see them what they can do. Various clubs played the tournament, always a mixed bag – big clubs normally avoided it; smaller clubs did not mind participating. And this year Manchester United played against Verona. It served as a benefit to Bobby… rather low key tribute, but in that years it was not fashionable yet to stage maniacal mega-events. Low key, but much more humane in my mind.
Bobby just scored his last goal in the net of Verona.
Addio Bobby – Verona fans paid their own tribute to Charlton with standing ovation. I cannot envision something like this happening today: cheering the ‘enemy’.
Sad moment… one of the all-time greatest players stepped down. It turned out, Bobby retired only from Manchester United – and went to play a little longer in the lower levels of English football:
A new Preston North End player. Somehow this didn’t count in 1973: to the mind of the world football fans Charlton regretfully retired.