NYON: UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has paid tribute to the former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona – a man who “puts his heart and soul into supporting the causes he believes in“ – after selecting the former French international to receive the 2019 UEFA President’s Award.
The President’s Award recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities, with Čeferin keen to stress that he admired Cantona’s commitment to improving the lives of others following the conclusion of his footballing career.
“This award not only recognises his career as a player of the highest calibre, but also honours him for the person he is – a man who refuses compromise, who stands up for his values, who speaks his mind and in particular, puts his heart and his soul into supporting the causes he believes in,” said the UEFA President.
Cantona, who will receive this award in Monaco on Thursday around the UEFA Champions League group stage draw, scored 64 goals in 143 appearances for Manchester United and was the catalyst who helped the club win their first English league title in 26 years in 1993, one of his four championship successes at Old Trafford.
He also represented Auxerre, Marseille and Nîmes among others in his native France, and Leeds United in England, with whom he also won the domestic title in 1992. During his career, he dazzled crowds with his unique talent and style, while his undoubted charisma won him respect wherever he played.
Since retiring in 1997 at the age of just 30, the Marseille-born forward has turned his hand to acting and beach soccer. However, it is his commitment to charitable causes which has won him praise from both inside and outside the footballing world.
Cantona, like Čeferin, is a committed supporter of the Common Goal initiative, which funds high-impact football charities worldwide. The pair both contribute 1% of their annual salary to the project, which was co-founded by Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata.
Previous winners of the UEFA President’s Award include former players such as Alfredo Di Stéfano, Sir Bobby Charlton, Eusébio, Raymond Kopa, Johan Cruyff, Francesco Totti and David Beckham.