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Funeral Services Held for Legendary Football Player John Charles - 2004-03-01

Wales, Leeds and Juventus football (soccer) legend John Charles, regarded by some as the greatest football player ever, was laid to rest Monday in London at Leeds Parish Church.

Past and present stars attended the funeral for the footballer known as the "Gentle Giant," who died last month at the age of 72 after serious blood circulation problems. The service was held on St. David's Day, Wales' national day, to mark his passing. Among those attending the funeral service were current Leeds players Alan Smith and Mark Viduka. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was also present. Former Wales player and manager John Toshack read a poem hailing Charles as "the greatest player there has ever been."

Charles began his career as a center-half at age 17 and became known as one of the best defenders of his era. But he made his name as a striker by scoring 157 goals in 327 matches for Leeds. He holds the club record for most goals scored in a single season when he had 42 in the 1953-54 season.

Among his other accomplishments, Charles helped Italian club Juventus win three championships in five years. He also won the Italian Footballer of the Year award in 1958. He was the first British player to make a lasting impression in Italy.