Former European Footballer of the Year Josef Masopust has been awarded honorary citizenship of Prague during a ceremony in the picture-postcard Czech capital.
Masopust saw a life-size statue of himself unveiled outside the home of Dukla Praha, the Prague club for whom he played between 1952 and 1968, only last June, and he has now been honoured by the city in which he played and has lived almost all his adult life.
"I really appreciate it and it is an honour for me to become a citizen of Prague," said the 81-year-old former midfielder, who was born near the town of Most. "I was a village boy living in northern Bohemia and always looked up to the capital. I knew if I wanted to get there, I would have to play football well. I was determined to do everything to get to Prague. Now I have lived here for 60 years."
Capped 63 times by Czechoslovakia, Masopust's achievements got continent-wide recognition when he received the Ballon d'Or in 1962 following his central role in helping his country reach that year's FIFA World Cup final. In fact, Masopust – who would later coach the Czechoslovak team – opened the scoring in the final in Santiago, Chile, only for the Czechs to fall 3-1 to Brazil. Nonetheless, the accolade cemented his place in the pantheon of supreme European footballers.
"It is a tremendous honour for me, personally, to bestow this upon a great sportsman who achieved outstanding results and became an idol for generations, and who also represented the city whose name he had on his shirt," said Bohuslav Svoboda, the mayor of Prague, at the ceremony in the capital's Old Town Hall.
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