English footballing legend Sir Bobby Charlton reportedly underwent surgery, on Monday, before the 2012 Laureaus World Sports Awards in London. The 74-year-old former football World Cup winner had been due to collect a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Laureaus ceremony.
Sir Charlton, who was part of England's 1966 FIFA Football World Cup squad (the only time England has ever won world football's biggest prize), has come to define more than just that one generation of the sport for his native country. He has, indeed become a symbol of success and an elder statesman of the game in England.
The organizers of the Laureaus World Sport awards confirmed Sir Charlton took ill on Sunday and left for Manchester. A recent Sky Sports report indicates that he had a minor operation, possibly for a gallstone.
The manager of English Premier League club Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, received the award on Sir Charlton's behalf and said the latter was absolutely fine.
"Sir Bobby is fine. He is very annoyed not to be here to receive this award. I'll be taking the statuette back to Old Trafford for him," Ferguson was quoted as saying in The Sun.
Incidentally, Sir Charlton was to pick up the award exactly 54 years to the day he survived a horrific air crash, in 1958, when a British European Airways plane carrying the Manchester United first team crashed in Munich. The disaster killed 23 people.