FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was among those in Madrid on Sunday for a special tribute to Alfredo Di Stefano, who he described as a "philosopher on the field".
Blatter paid homage to the values enshrined by the Argentinian,
in particular his "loyalty to his team and colleagues",
and said the legendary former Real Madrid striker had been
"one of his boyhood heroes".
The emotion-filled day began with a gathering at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium, where the "Blond Arrow" enjoyed the most successful spell of his career. The 81-year-old Di Stefano was presented with the UEFA President's Award by Michel Platini, who described him as "a great among greats", adding: "It's impossible to imagine the history of our game without your extraordinary presence."
The celebrations then moved on to Real Madrid's Cuidad Deportiva in Valdebebas, where a statue of the player was unveiled. The figure, a stone and bronze sculpture created by the artist Pedro Montes, shows Di Stefano celebrating one of his many goals.
"When you look at the statue, you'll see my arms are high in the air and wide open. This mirrors the embrace of gratitude that I'd like to extend to you all. Thank you so much. I want to express my most sincere gratitude to you all for being with me on a day I'll never forget. It's too much. I'm moved by all you've said. I don't deserve it, but I'll have to accept it," said an emotional Di Stefano.
The FIFA President, who hailed the Argentinian as "a living legend", announced that he would propose to the FIFA Congress in Sydney that Di Stefano's name be used in a worldwide Fair Play campaign.
"All this has left my trembling with emotion; I don't deserve all this," the former player said. "I'd like to dedicate all these tributes to my colleagues, past and present. There have been good times and bad, but football has been my life and given me all I have," he added.
In addition to Blatter and Platini, among those present at the tribute were the president of the RFEF (Spanish FA) and FIFA vice-president Angel Maria Villar, Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon, Spain's secretary of state for sport, Jaime Lissavetzky, the president of Spain's Olympic Committee (COE), Alejandro Blanco, the mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, the entire Real Madrid squad, and a group of former players including, among others, the Portuguese Eusebio, Frenchman Raymond Kopa and Spaniards Francisco Gento, Fernando Hierro and Emilio Butragueno.