William John Charles

(1931—2004) footballer

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(1931–2004) Born in Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom, a professional footballer for English club Leeds United, for which he signed on his seventeenth birthday after two years as a trainee at his local Swansea Town Football Club. Charles was a strong, muscular player—he boxed with some success during his National Service in the army—and his great quality was that he could play with equally impressive effect in both attacking and defensive positions. Charles moved to play with great success for Juventus of Turin (Torino) where, in 1957, the club doctor commented that ‘I have never seen a better human machine in a lifetime in medicine’. Obituarists wrote lyrically in 2004 of these physical qualities, and despite this physical prowess Charles's demeanour in play was such that in Italy he acquired the nickname ‘The Good (or Gentle) Giant’ (il Buon Gigante); in a quarter of a century of competitive matches, he was never cautioned or sent off. Charles's career in Italy made him a rich man but his later years were blighted by declining stature in the game (as player and then manager), business misadventures, relative poverty, and illness. In 1997, nevertheless, Juventus fans voted him their greatest ever foreign player.

From A Dictionary of Sports Studies in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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