Raymond Kopa, the brilliant Frenchman who made an outstanding contribution to the glorious eras of French club Stade de Reims and Spanish giants Real Madrid CF, is the proud recipient of the UEFA President's Award for 2010.
Kopa, a wonderfully versatile playmaker and a star of the world game in the 1950s, will receive the award from UEFA president Michel Platini ahead of the French Ligue 2 match between Stade de Reims and Le Havre AC at the Auguste Delaune stadium in Reims on Saturday. He is the latest football great to collect the UEFA President's Award, which recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities.
Born in Noeux-les-Mines on 13 October 1931, Raymond Kopa won his first cap for France in a 3-1 victory against West Germany on 5 October 1952. His international career included two FIFA World Cups, he captained France six times, and he scored 18 goals in 45 games for his country over ten years. The 1958 World Cup saw France finish third, and Kopa crowned player of the tournament. The same year, Kopa was awarded the prestigious Ballon d'Or by the renowned France Football magazine.
After starting out at home club US Noeux-les-Mines, Raymond Kopa moved on to Angers SCO before transferring to Reims. Here he helped his team win two French league titles, in 1953 and 1955, and reach the first-ever European Champion Clubs' Cup final in 1956 – a memorable match in which Reims eventually went down 4-3 to Real Madrid.
Kopa then joined Madrid and, as part of one of the greatest club sides in football history, lifted the European Cup three successive times, in 1957, 1958 and 1959. A magnificent ambassador for the French game, he also claimed two league titles with Madrid during a productive spell in Spain.
Returning to Reims for the remainder of his playing days, Kopa won another two championships, in 1960 and 1962. He retired in 1967, and subsequently became the first French footballer to be awarded France's Legion d'Honneur, in November 1970.
"Although he never wore this number, he was the precursor of the modern No10s," said Michel Platini. "He was one of the first to attempt the great adventure of moving to another country. He put football on the front pages of the French newspapers for the first time."
"It is a very great honour for me to receive this award this year," said Kopa. "Firstly, because I am the first Frenchman to be given this honour. And secondly, because this distinction comes from UEFA – an organisation which has always worked on behalf of the well-being of football – this king of sports which has made such a contribution to bringing together the nations which form the old continent of Europe."
A special tribute came from Kopa's erstwhile team-mate from the 1958 World Cup – Just Fontaine, whose 13 goals in that tournament remain a competition record. "I would like to congratulate Michel Platini on having taken the initiative of honouring our sport's glorious players of the past, of which Raymond Kopa is incontestably one," he said.
The UEFA President's Award, introduced by UEFA in 1998, focuses particularly on the true protagonists – the players – who have advanced the sport's development and success.
On 18 February 2008, Michel Platini presented his first UEFA President's Award to Alfredo di Stéfano, the attacking ace from Madrid's all-conquering side of the 1950s and early 1960s. On 29 April 2009, he honoured another illustrious name, Manchester United FC and England hero Sir Bobby Charlton. Then, on 23 February 2010, Michel Platini was proud to present his third award to Eusébio, the brilliant Portuguese striker who lit up the European game in the 1960s.