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Bobby Moore: An icon and a gentleman

As the only England captain to lift the World Cup, Bobby Moore is inexorably linked with English football, but he has also achieved the kind of recognition that many modern day professionals struggle to reach. His image is that of a true gentleman of the game and a role model to youngsters around the world.

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Moore died at the age of 51 of bowel cancer in 1993, after a career in which he became the first footballer to lift the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and saw him break the international appearance record (108 caps). His residual impact on players, pundits and fans has ensured that his legacy is one of a true icon.

An inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, in recognition of his standing in the game, Moore's famous No. 6 shirt has been retired at his main club side West Ham United, who have also named an Upton Park stand after him, and a 20ft bronze statue of him stands looking down Wembley Way at the home of football. Few players have made such an indelible mark on the English game and, at a time when players' morals are being questioned more than ever, it is a fitting time to remember the man described as ''National Treasure. Master of Wembley. Lord of the game. Captain extraordinary. Gentleman of all time'' by the inscription on his plinth.

''The more you hear about present footballers and the scrapes they get into, the more I realise what a role model he was,'' his second wife Stephanie, who established the Bobby Moore Fund, after his death, told ESPNsoccernet.

''He was always very responsible and very reliable; very responsible about himself, his health and his sport. Very passionate about football and always had time for people. He was an extremely special man. He was extremely modest and a charming gentleman with a great sense of humour; he never spoke ill of people.

''Don't forget that, back then, you could go to the bar and stand beside Bobby and have a drink. If you tried to do that nowadays with someone like David Beckham it would be impossible. Times were different back then, but of course he is a marvellous role model for young players to this day.''

Pele, the Brazilian striker widely acclaimed as the best player of all time, called him ''the greatest defender I ever played against'' and many others from his peer group have echoed the sentiment over the years. A cool, well organised, natural-born leader, Moore could read a game as well anyone in history and, while he did not possess blistering pace and did not dominate in the air, he was able to marshal his team from the back and time tackles to perfection.

That success at the World Cup in 1966 remains his crowning achievement, but Moore was also proud of his only win of the FA Cup in 1964, although Stephanie maintains that he was a modest man who would never have rubbed his success in the faces of others.

''He didn't wax lyrical about his accomplishments very much, he was a very modest guy but he did say that winning the FA Cup trophy was a particularly precious moment to him,'' she added. ''The FA Cup was very important to him throughout his career, and it is a wonderful accolade to achieve for any footballer; for him the success would have been up there with another wonderful moment from his life when he swapped shirts with Pele in 1970. For Bobby personally and for West Ham it was an enormous achievement and one that he remembered very fondly and very proudly all his life.''

Moore's success in 1964 remained his only major domestic achievement. But in 1975, and towards the end of his career, he was part of the Fulham side that were beaten by the Hammers in a very emotional final. According to Stephanie, the moment ranks among Moore's worst of his career as his former, still beloved, side won 2-0 in what would be his final appearance at Wembley.

''He was very disappointed and he did talk about that later in his life,'' she said. ''I've heard Alan Mullery [Bobby's Fulham team-mate at the time] since say that Bobby put his arm around him after the game and said: 'Don't forget how old we are and how lucky we are to still be playing at this level'. Still, it was a tremendous disappointment to him, that game.''

Moore retired from playing professionally in 1978, but has been recognised as a legend ever since. His name is forever inked into history thanks to both his achievements and also his affable personality. Recently voted into the ESPNsoccernet FA Cup of Dreams Fan Poll XI, Stephanie maintains that the honour shows just what a special player he was.

''The fact he is the only man from his generation to have been voted into the Cup of Dreams XI shows how fond people still are of him and what he achieved in the world of football,'' she said. ''And, of course, he is still the only English captain to have lifted the World Cup.''

While there may, one day, be another English captain to lift the famous trophy; there will certainly never be another player like Moore.

Stephanie Moore was speaking to ESPNsoccernet as part of the FA Cup of Dreams XI award presentation and is the founder of The Bobby Moore Fund, in partnership with Cancer Research UK - www.bobbymoorefund.org.

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