One of French football's greatest names, Raymond Kopa, has received the UEFA President's Award for 2010 at a ceremony today in Reims, France.
Kopa – whose brilliance thrilled crowds and brought success to Stade de Reims and Real Madrid CF during a superb career in the 1950s and 1960s – was presented with the award by UEFA president Michel Platini ahead of the French Ligue 2 match between Stade de Reims and Le Havre AC at the Auguste Delaune stadium.
Raymond Kopa is the latest in a distinguished group of football greats to collect the UEFA President's Award – a tribute to outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities.
The now 79-year-old helped Real Madrid to three successive European Champion Clubs' Cup titles in 1957, 1958 and 1959, and was the catalyst for Reims's appearance in the competition's first-ever final in 1956. He also won 45 caps for France, scoring 18 goals, and took his country to third place in the 1958 FIFA World Cup, where he was named player of the tournament.
Kopa follows three other legends of the game who have collected the UEFA President's Award from Michel Platini – his former Real Madrid team-mate Alfredo di Stéfano (2007), English hero Sir Bobby Charlton (2008) and Portugal's superstar Eusébio (2009).
Professing his pride at such an honour, Kopa said he was delighted to be treading in the footsteps of three illustrious players. "I have immense admiration and deep respect for my predecessors who have received this award," he said. "My great friend Alfredo di Stéfano, with whom I shared so many glorious moments; Bobby Charlton, who epitomised class on the field, and who deserves to be a Sir; and the phenomenal Eusébio, whose talent dazzled the football world for so many years."
"Raymond Kopa possessed a spellbinding dribble," said Michel Platini in praise of his countryman. "Those who saw him play speak of a phenomenon that was almost choreographic in nature, allied to incredible control of the ball.
"He had a real presence on the black and white screens of our television sets made out of varnished wood," the UEFA president continued. "He aroused huge passion, stirring a society which was still timid and in such need of modernity. Raymond Kopa's sporting legacy is immense and laid French football's foundations. He came ahead of the Platinis and Zidanes – he paved the way for what happened in 1984 [France's EURO success] and 1998 [winning the World Cup]."
Next of kin and friends were in Reims to enjoy the occasion with Kopa – including Just Fontaine, his team-mate from 1958 who set a World Cup finals record by scoring 13 goals. "
I am delighted to be able to celebrate Raymond's career in the company of his family and closest friends," Fontaine said.
Real Madrid representative and one of Raymond Kopa's successors as a star player for the club, Emilio Butragueño, was also happy to witness the proceedings in Reims. "
It is an honour to be here with Michel Platini to celebrate Raymond Kopa's award," he said, recalling that Kopa was an idol of his father when he played for the Spanish team. "Raymond Kopa is synonymous with the best moments of Real Madrid's history."