SJA Chairman BARRY NEWCOMBE reports from Westminster
Illness prevented Sir Bobby Charlton from receiving the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award in London last night.
The footballing knight felt unwell the previous day and returned to Manchester for minor surgery. The presentation was set to be the climax to Laureus World Sports Awards evening at Westminster’s Central Hall, with the awards taking place on the night of th 54th anniversary of the Munich air disaster.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson received the award on behalf of Sir Bobby, and told the dinner jacketed audience: “Sir Bobby is fine, but it was felt he should go back to Manchester. He is very annoyed not to be here to receive this award. I’ll be taking the statuette back to Old Trafford for him. He loves the work he does for Laureus and I know how delighted he is to have received this tribute.”
Later Sir Alex saId: “We’re honouring a great, great man. It’s a very emotional night for Bobby. For 25 years at the club he shared my vision, supported every step I took and it made him such a great support for me. Without that I don’t know where I would be.
“It was already a very emotional night for Bobby. This is the 54th anniversary of the Munich air disaster when we lost eight of our young players. Through that time Bobby has kept his fantastic humility, and that makes him very special to me.”
Fellow Laureus Academy Member and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who played against Sir Bobby in the 1966 World Cup Final at Wembley and the 1970 World Cup quarter-final at Leon, Mexico, said: “Bobby was a legend on the field and he is a real gentleman off the field. There are only a few athletes who deserve to receive this Award, but Bobby deserves this 1,000 per cent.
“I would put him in the top five of all time. I would say, for me, Pelé is untouchable. He’s the best player ever and then one step behind there is Bobby, there is Maradona, there is Cruyff, there is Platini. Everyone respects him because he was such a fair player. Football has been his life from when he became a professional when he was 16 till today. His heart, his head, everything is football.”
Edwin Moses, chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, said: “On behalf of my fellow members I would like to congratulate Sir Bobby on this well-deserved award. He is one of the most enthusiastic academy members and has done some great work over the years to help young people.
“He was in good form in our academy meeting and contributed on a range of issues. It’s a shame we were not able to congratulate him in person. Next time we are all together we will be giving him a huge round of applause on behalf of the sports fans of the world.”
Northern Ireland golfers Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy both won awards last night: Clarke for the World Comeback of the Year for winning the Open at Royal Sandwich, and McIroy the breakthrough award for capturing the US Open at the age of 22.
Clarke received his trophy from Gary Player before a standing ovation. “It was a long time getting there,” Clarke said. “I tried, and I tried, and I tried, but sport is a funny thing. You battle on and I think my turn came around. It was one of those weeks when things went my way.
“I’ve had a tough time in my personal life but I’ve been lucky because sport gives us opportunities to battle on and to shine through. But I’ve come through the other side and it just goes to show that through turmoil you can get there in the end. I did get there, and I feel very fortunate.”
The Sportsman of the Year crown went to Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who took the stage eight days after winning the Australian Open for a second time in a record breaking final against Rafal Nadal. Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot won the sportswoman award after dominating the distance events in the athletics world championships.
The team award went to Champions’ League winners Barcelona while Oscar Pistorius took the award for a sportsperson with a disability.
The awards showcased historic London at its best with Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament the backdrop to interviews conducted outdoors in the freezing cold, while the audience in Central Hall, which is 100 years old this year, watched in the warmth.
The 2012 Laureus Awards Ceremony, held at Central Hall, Westminster, was hosted by Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winning actor Clive Owen and attended by guests from the worlds of sport and entertainment.
- Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports 91 community sports projects in 34 countries around the world, including five in London. Since its inception, Laureus has raised €40 million for projects which have improved the lives of more than one-and-a-half million young people.
- Laureus combines the Laureus World Sports Awards, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Laureus World Sports Academy to form a unique international sports organisation that uses the inspirational power of sport as a force for good. The Laureus Foundation is a global leader in research, expertise and best practice in supporting grassroots programmes around the world.
- For full biographies of Winners and Nominees go to www.laureus.com
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