HELSINKI: The death of Aulis Rytkonen, Finland’s first professional footballer, has been confirmed by the football association.

Nicknamed Monsieur Magic as a result of seven successful seasons with French club Toulouse, Rytkonen was 85.

“Our football family has lost one of its great ones,” FAF President Pertti Alaja said. “Aulis Rytkonen was something unforeseen big, on the pitch and also off the pitch. As a person, he was easily approachable, wise, charmant and always very warm.”

A skillful player, Rytkonen first appeared for Finland club Kuopion Palloseura when he was only 16 years-old and three years later he earned his first cap for his country.

The striker impressed for Finland at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and sealed his transfer to Toulouse shortly after the Games and made an immediate impact in France, helping Toulouse earn promotion to the Ligue 1 in his first season with the club. Rytkonen won the Coupe de France in 1957, notching four assists on the day.

After Rytkonen hung up his boots, he started his coaching career in both men’s and women’s football. To this today, Rytkonen is the only person to win the championship in both the men’s and women’s Finnish league. The Finnish international was capped 37 times and scored seven goals. He was awarded the Captain’s Ball in 2007 by the FAF in recognition of his service to Finnish football.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Aulis’s family and loved ones,” Alaja said. “We miss him with a great gratitude. His memory and work for the Finnish game have been written in capital letters in the history of Finnish football forever.”