Sir Bobby Charlton gave a resounding endorsement to the quality of women's football at the 2012 London Olympic Games on his visit to the City of Coventry football stadium on Wednesday.
The Manchester United and England hero admitted: "I have been watching women's games on television and I have had to remind myself I am not watching the men. And I mean that as a compliment.
"They pass, they tackle, they head and they're organised. I have to admit I was sceptical about the women's game. That was a mistake. I should never have underestimated them the way I did. Women's football used to be ridiculed but not any more. The progress has been so quick and I am very impressed.
"When I ran my soccer schools 15-20 years ago, it was never easy to let the girls in but now that could never be considered as a problem. Maybe they could not compete physically but they possess all the skills of the men."
The 1966 FIFA World Cup™ winner has been especially impressed with Great Britain women's team, who face Canada in the quarterfinals on Friday 3 August.
Sir Bobby said: "It was a fantastic surprise to see them compete at the very highest level against Brazil and beat them. I never thought I would see the day when 70,000 people would attend a women's match at Wembley. The British girls seem to have a wonderful team spirit and I hope they continue to go a long way in the tournament."
Although he enjoyed a glittering career and earned global recognition as a football ambassador, Sir Bobby regrets he never had the chance to become an Olympian. He said: "It never came onto the radar in my playing days. I would love to have played in the Olympic Games but in those times the professionals were not allowed to enter the amateur Olympic set-up, as it was then. I am thrilled to see Ryan Giggs involved because he's such a great professional."