Sporting stars remembered: Who the world of sport lost in 2023

Sir Bobby Charlton, sporting deaths in 2023

As the year comes to a close, we remember those that we have lost and look back at some of the sporting deaths in 2023.

Frank McGarvey

The former Celtic forward died on New Year’s Day at the age of 66 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer months earlier. He won two league titles and five trophies overall during a successful spell in Glasgow.

David Gold

The East End boy went from “abject poverty” to owning the team he grew up supporting. Following a successful career in business, which also included a spell in the boardroom at Birmingham, Gold became joint-chairman of his beloved West Ham in 2010 alongside David Sullivan. They ran the club together until his death on January 4, aged 86, after a short illness.

Gianluca Vialli

Italian great Vialli went on to become one of the first major European imports to the Premier League in 1996. He had been the most expensive player in the world four years earlier and won every trophy on offer in Italy with Sampdoria and Juventus before claiming several cup successes as Chelsea player-manager. He later took on a key backroom staff role with the Azzurri and helped them deny England in the Euro 2020 final before dying at the age of 58 following a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

David Duckham

Coventry stalwart Duckham played 36 Tests for England, but is perhaps best remembered for his displays in other international jerseys after starring for the British and Irish Lions as a wing in their successful 1971 tour of New Zealand. He also endeared himself to the Welsh faithful with a superb performance in a memorable Barbarians win over the All Blacks at Arms Park in 1973 that earned him the nickname of Dai. He died aged 76 on January 9.

Anton Walkes

American outfit Charlotte FC confirmed the death of ex-Tottenham and Portsmouth defender Walkes at the age of 25 in January after their squad had been in Miami for a training camp.

Charlie Faulkner

Loosehead prop Faulkner enjoyed plenty of highs across 19 caps for Wales, winning two grand slams, and also represented the British and Irish Lions and Barbarians. He later coached a number of regions, including Newport and Cardiff. He died aged 81 at the start of February.

Christian Atsu

Former Ghana winger Atsu represented Chelsea, Everton, Bournemouth and most notably Newcastle in England before ending up in Turkey with Hatayspor. His last contribution for the club was a stoppage-time winner days before a devastating earthquake in Turkey killed him at the age of 31, along with more than 50,000 people.

Dickie Davies

Broadcaster Davies was best known for anchoring World of Sport on ITV for 17 years, where he brought fringe sports to the eyes of many. He also covered the Seoul Olympics and several of Mike Tyson’s early fights for ITV before joining Eurosport. He died aged 94.

John Motson

Better known as Motty, the distinguished commentator from Salford became synonymous with football on the BBC for almost half a century after catapulting himself into the big-time with his description of Ronnie Radford’s memorable FA Cup goal for Hereford against Newcastle. Motson would keep listeners entertained at 10 World Cups, cover 29 FA Cup finals and spread his talent across two Olympics before his death aged 77.

Just Fontaine

French great Just Fontaine is best known for his remarkable tally of 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup, which remains a record. A lethal finisher with Nice and Reims, Fontaine was forced to retire at the age of 28, but went on to coach France and Paris St Germain. He died in March at the age of 89.

Ken Buchanan

The International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee died aged 77 in April after a battle with dementia following a storied career. Buchanan won 61 fights, was undisputed lightweight champion and a regular at Madison Square Garden, but defeat to Roberto Duran in contentious circumstances in New York stung the Scottish favourite and took many years to heal.

Craig Breen

Irish rally driver Breen was involved in a fatal crash in a pre-event test ahead of the Croatia Rally. The Hyundai driver was 33.

Jim Fox

Pentathlete Fox represented Great Britain at four Olympics and claimed gold after teaming up with Danny Nightingale and Adrian Parker in the Montreal Games in 1976. He later served as Pentathlon GB chairman and died at the age of 81.

Tori Bowie

The death of American sprinter Bowie was revealed in May and later put down to complications relating to childbirth. Bowie helped Team USA win gold in the 4x100m relay at the Rio Games in 2016 and a year later had been crowned world champion in the 100 metres in London.

Silvio Berlusconi

Controversial businessman Berlusconi saved boyhood club AC Milan from near-bankruptcy in 1986 and remained in charge during a trophy-laden spell that resulted in eight Serie A titles and five European Cup wins. He went on to own Monza during the latter stages of his life before dying aged 86 in June.

Paul Rendall

The England prop made 28 appearances for his country and played at two World Cups. He died at the age of 69 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2022.

John Hollins

An ex-Chelsea player and manager, Hollins made 592 appearances for the Blues across two spells and won the Full Members’ Cup during a mixed managerial reign. He remained a favourite with supporters and coached Swansea to promotion in 2000. He died aged 76 in June.

Gordon McQueen

Scottish defender McQueen has the novelty of being popular with both Leeds and Manchester United fans after starring for the two clubs during a hugely-respected 16-year career where he made 30 outings for his nation. McQueen also coached at Middlesbrough before becoming a pundit on Soccer Saturday. After being diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2021, he died this summer aged 70.

Bev Risman

Dual-code international Risman played for England and the British and Irish Lions in rugby union before switching to rugby league, where he captained Great Britain at the 1968 World Cup. He also had a stint as Rugby Football League president and died aged 85.

Craig Brown

After an injury-hit playing career, Brown embarked on a memorable managerial journey that peaked when he guided Scotland to the 1998 World Cup. It followed a successful qualification for Euro 96. It was only after Brown’s exit that his achievements gained further weight when the Tartan Army endured a lengthy spell away from major tournament football. He died at the age of 82.

Greig Oliver

The three-capped former Scotland scrum-half died aged 58 after a paragliding accident in Cape Town, having worked as elite performance officer at Munster. While he only played three times for Scotland, he appeared at two World Cups.

Trevor Francis

Britain’s first £1million player, Francis paid back some of that fee with the winner in the 1979 European Cup final for Nottingham Forest. He scored more than 250 goals across a 24-year playing career with a notable spell at Birmingham. He would later become a manager and lead Sheffield Wednesday to the FA Cup final in 1993. He died aged 69 in July.

Chris Bart-Williams

Versatile Bart-Williams proved popular at Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest in the Premier League and below before later becoming a coach in the USA. He died at the age of 49.

Clive Rowlands

Rowlands captained Wales as a player before becoming a hugely successful coach of his nation, culminating in a memorable Grand Slam victory in 1971. He later returned to lead Wales to third place at the 1987 World Cup before dying aged 85 in July.

Mohamed Al Fayed

Harrods owner Al Fayed ploughed his money into lower-league outfit Fulham in 1997 with the lofty ambition of leading them to the top flight for the first time since the 60s. He succeeded and remained in charge of the Craven Cottage outfit until 2013. He died aged 94 on August 30.

David Watkins

Cross-code great Watkins captained the British and Irish Lions against New Zealand in 1966 after first making his name with Newport, before switching to rugby league. He showed his class and represented Great Britain six times before coaching them to the 1977 World Cup final, which ended in defeat to Australia. He died at the age of 81.

Edward Hide

Hide enjoyed a long association with the Easterby stable and the crowning moment arrived at the 1973 Derby with Morston for Arthur Budgett when he pipped Lester Piggott on Cayo Doro to victory. He also won the ‘Cock of the North’ accolade on 16 occasions. He died at the age of 86.

Francis Lee

Man City stalwart Lee scored 148 goals for the club and fired them to the First Division title in 1968 before repeating the trick with Derby in 1975. He earned 30 England caps before he became City chairman, which proved less successful but a statue to mark his achievements at the club was unveiled at the Etihad in November, a month after his death aged 79 following a long battle with cancer.

Lady Cathy Ferguson

The bedrock behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s unprecedented era of success at Man United, Lady Cathy Ferguson enjoyed a long marriage to the Scottish coach after they met while both working at a typewriter factory. She died in October aged 84.

Sir Bobby Charlton

World Cup-winner Charlton remains one of the greatest footballers to grace the game after inspiring England to 1966 success and being a titanic figure for Man United on and off the pitch. Charlton won a plethora of trophies but perhaps most significantly helped the Red Devils become European Cup winners in 1968, a decade after the Munich Air disaster had killed many of his team-mates. England’s record goalscorer until 2015, he served on the board at Old Trafford through Ferguson’s tenure and died at the age of 86 on October 21.

Bill Kenwright

The death of Everton chairman Kenwright was confirmed by the club at the end of October after a battle with cancer. Kenwright ran numerous West End shows before he was able to devote his time to true love Everton, after he was made chairman in 2004. His near-two decades produced mixed results on the pitch but he put the groundwork in place for the Toffees’ move into a new home.

Adam Johnson

American ice hockey player Johnson died aged 29 after an on-ice collision at a match between Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers. The Panthers ace had played for Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL before moving to England.

Terry Venables

The charismatic Venables enjoyed cup successes with Chelsea and Tottenham alongside playing for his country, but it was in the dugout where he made his name. Eye-catching spells with Crystal Palace and QPR earned him a shot with Barcelona and he ended their 11-year wait for LaLiga success. Further FA Cup joy with Tottenham earned him the England job, and the Three Lions’ run to the Euro 96 semi-finals put his name in folklore forever. He died aged 80 on November 25.

Syd Millar

Millar starred with the oval ball in hand for both Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, appearing on three tours. He then presided over the Lions’ successful tour of South Africa in 1974 as a coach before becoming a key figure at the Irish Rugby Football Union. His death at the age of 89 was announced on December 10.

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