[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Wales' farewell to 'Gentle Giant'
John Charles in action for Juventus
John Charles in action for Juventus
After an emotional ceremony honouring football legend John Charles, his widow has said it was "an absolutely wonderful homecoming" for him.

The packed memorial attended by around 1,000 people at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea celebrated the life of the footballer, who died in February, and also marked the handing over of his ashes to the city where he was born.

Afterwards, the star's widow Glenda said she had found the service more emotional than her late husband's funeral.

"I know now I really did make the right decision to bring him home. He loved Wales and I'm sure that I have done the right thing."

Former Wales and Swansea star John Toshack read a poem and entertainer Stan Stennett, an old friend of Charles, also made a tribute while fellow sportsmen Mark Hughes and Eddie Gray were in the crowd.

Glenda Charles
Glenda Charles said the service was more emotional than the funeral

Umberto Columbo, a former team-mate from Juventus, the Italian club to which Charles transferred in 1957 from Leeds for a record fee, also spoke.

Former 1958 World Cup squad team-mate Mel Hopkins and Clive Thomas, the former referee, made their own personal tributes.

The footballer was dubbed Il Gigante Buono - "the Gentle Giant" - by fans because he was never booked or sent off once in his career.

He died at the age of 72 in February after falling ill on a tour of Italy promoting his autobiography, King John.

His funeral was held in Leeds on St David's Day, but his widow Glenda had waited until Monday to formally hand over his ashes to Swansea.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan was another to pay tribute.

"What was always important to John was how you played the game. He wanted to play it in the way they play football in heaven - with skill and with fairness," he said.

"No man is indestructible, but John Charles' memory will be indestructible."

A tribute from Sir Bobby Robson, former England and current Newcastle manager, was also read out by Swansea Lord Mayor Lawrence Bailey.

John Charles
Charles collapsed prior to an appearance on Italian television

Earlier, it had emerged that demand for tickets for the ceremony had been so high that Swansea Council had asked anyone who could not attend to return them so that seats could be re-allocated.

The authority had had to compile a waiting list for fans desperate to be at the historic ceremony.

Swansea's Morriston Orpheus Choir also performed at the Brangwyn Hall, and one of the ceremony's most emotional moments was when pupils from Charles' old school, Manselton primary, sang 'I'm coming home to Swansea town'.

John Charles' ashes will now be kept by Swansea Council.

There is currently a national fundraising appeal for a statue in his honour which will be erected at the city's new White Rock stadium and the ashes will eventually be incorporated into that.




SEE ALSO:
Football mourns Charles
01 Mar 04  |  Football
St David's Day funeral for Charles
23 Feb 04  |  South West Wales
Fans call for memorial to legend
23 Feb 04  |  West Yorkshire
Wales remembers national hero
21 Feb 04  |  South West Wales
John Charles dies
21 Feb 04  |  Football


RELATED BBCi LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific