The Czech Republic and European football family is mourning the passing of Josef Masopust, European Footballer of the Year in 1962, who has died at the age of 84.
Masopust was one of the greatest midfield players of his generation. He was an inspirational figure in the Czechoslovakian team that reached the FIFA World Cup final in 1962, scoring the opening goal against Brazil in the Santiago decider before the South American side recovered to win 3-1.
"Josef Masopust is a player I greatly admired," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "He was a gentleman, both on and off the pitch. In his day, Josef was truly an outstanding player. He was a classic midfielder for Dukla Praha with a flair and talent for goalscoring and an uncanny ability for elegant dribbling. He deservedly won the Ballon d'Or in 1962 and was part of the great Czechoslovakia squad that came second in Chile that year."
Masopust was born in the town of Most in northern Bohemia on 9 February 1931. After starting out at local club FK Baník Most, he signed for FK Teplice as a teenager and began his top-flight career there. In 1952, he joined Dukla Praha and inspired them to eight league titles.
Masopust's international career, which yielded 63 caps, started against Hungary in 1954. He played at the 1958 World Cup and followed that up by helping Czechoslovakia to finish third in the 1960 UEFA European Championship, before making an impressive mark on the World Cup two years later.
He went abroad in 1968 and, as player-coach of Belgian club R. Crossing Molenbeek, earned promotion to the first division. His coaching career continued at Dukla, but it was with FC Zbrojovka Brno that he would win the Czech league title in 1978. Later, in the 1980s, he led the Czechoslovakian national team for three years before a spell in Indonesia.
To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. The Czech Republic chose Josef Masopust as their Golden Player.
A minute's silence in memory of Masopust was observed at the UEFA Executive Committee meeting in Prague today, and another minute of silence will be held ahead of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship final between Sweden and Portugal in the Czech capital on Tuesday night.
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