The FIFA Fair Play Award for 2009 has been posthumously given to Sir Bobby Robson, who passed away on 31 July this year following a long battle against cancer at the age of 76.
His widow, Lady Elsie, was present at the Kongresshaus in Zurich to collect the award, bestowed on the former England manager for the gentlemanly qualities he showed throughout his career as a player and coach.
Colleagues, opponents and football fans all over the world respected and admired Robson, who epitomised the values of fair play, while also enjoying tremendous levels of success. As a player, he represented England at the 1958 FIFA World Cup™ and as a manager won league championships in both the Netherlands and Portugal, as well as earning trophies in England and Spain.
A lifetime of leadership
Born in County Durham on 18 February 1933, Robson was an apprentice electrician before beginning his playing career as a 17-year-old at Fulham. In two separate spells at Craven Cottage he scored 77 goals in 344 matches, though he also made 239 appearances for West Bromwich Albion, scoring 55 goals in all for the Baggies. Capped by his country 20 times, Robson eventually yielded his place in the team to Bobby Moore.
He took up his first coaching post at Fulham in 1968 and though he failed to make an impression there, he performed miracles in his next job at Ipswich Town. The men from Portman Road became a feared side under Robson's stewardship, winning the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup in 1981.
His reward for sustained success with the East Anglian outfit was promotion to the England job in 1982. In his first FIFA World Cup™ finals appearance at Mexico 1986, Robson steered his side to the quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by a famous Diego Maradona brace. Four year later, he would go one better, taking England to the semi-finals at Italy, where they went out on penalties after a titanic duel with Germany.
Robson then returned to club football, trying his luck overseas with PSV Eindhoven in two separate stints between 1990 and 1999, and taking up the reins in the meantime at Sporting, FC Porto and Barcelona. He returned home in 1999 to take over at his beloved Newcastle United, remaining in the post until 2004.
Since first being diagnosed with cancer in 1992, Robson had fought and overcome the disease on several occasions, before beginning treatment again in 2007. However, in February of that same year, it was described as being terminal. A little over a year later, he launched the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to raise money for cancer research which has gone on to raise over £2 million. The Foundation focuses on the early detection and treatment of cancer and the clinical trials of new drugs that will eventually beat it.
Following his death, the footballing world came out in praise of the charismatic figure. FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter thanked him for his contribution to the beautiful game, saying: “He always showed great passion for the game and will be missed by all football fans across the globe.”
In a recent interview with FIFA.com, England’s legendary full-back Stuart Pearce said this about his former manager: "Bobby Robson was exactly the same as the general public perceived him to be. He always conducted himself with great integrity, even after a crushing defeat in the semi-final against Germany. I was very fortunate to have played under him.”
Therefore, for his spirit, success and sense of Fair Play, Robson is a worthy recipient of this award. FIFA and the football world salutes him and the values he upheld during his life.