Sir Bobby Charlton, widely considered to be England’s greatest ever footballer, has been diagnosed with dementia.
The 83-year-old, who was England and Manchester United’s record goalscorer until recently, has the disease, the Telegraph said, with his wife, Lady Norma, content for his condition to be made public in order to help others with dementia.
Charlton won 106 England caps and was a key member of the 1966 World Cup-winning side. In his club career he won three league titles, a European Cup and an FA Cup during 17 years at Old Trafford, where he remains on the board of directors.
In a statement, the club said: “Everyone at Manchester United is saddened that this terrible disease has afflicted Sir Bobby Charlton and we continue to offer our love and support to Sir Bobby and his family.”
Charlton’s elder brother, Jack, died aged 85 in July following a battle with dementia and lymphoma, with three other members of England’s 1966 World Cup team also having being diagnosed with dementia or memory loss.
On Friday Charlton’s United teammate Nobby Stiles died after a prolonged period with dementia and prostate cancer, with Martin Peters and Ray Wilson dying in 2019 and 2018 respectively after having Alzheimer’s disease. A study last year found former footballers 3.5 times more likely than others to develop dementia.
Gary Lineker, whose 48 England goals place him one behind Sir Bobby’s 49 as the third highest scorer, wrote on Twitter: “Yet another hero of our 1966 World Cup-winning team has been diagnosed with dementia. Perhaps the greatest of them all, Sir Bobby. This is both very sad and deeply concerning.”
The current United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær said: “Of course it’s sad news for everyone surrounding Man United. I had the pleasure of meeting Nobby and what a humble man. It’s sad and, of course, we as a club want to support Sir Bobby as well.”
Last year’s study into dementia was commissioned by the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association and led by the consultant neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart of Glasgow University. It assessed the medical records of 7,676 men who played professionally between 1900 and 1976, with their data matched against more than 23,000 individuals from the general population.
The study’s findings came 17 years after the former England and West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle died at the age of 59 with what a coroner described as an “industrial injury”.
Astle’s daughter Dawn responded to the study’s findings by saying “these players who have suffered dementia must not be a statistic – they must never be forgotten”. – Guardian ■