Community celebration marks opening of Cruyff Court Neale Cooper

Aberdeen school children joined Scottish football legends and project partners today to celebrate the opening of Cruyff Court Neale Cooper.

The guests of honour were members of Neale Cooper’s family, with the facility named in honour of the late Aberdeen Football Club star.

The £300,000 community sports facility has been built on local authority land adjacent to Tullos Primary School. In addition to providing the site, Aberdeen City Council has provided £250,000 of funding and the Johan Cruyff Foundation has added £50,000.

Aberdeen City Council, the Denis Law Legacy Trust and the Cruyff Foundation have worked in partnership to deliver the city’s second Cruyff Court – with Cruyff Court Denis Law well used since opening at Catherine Street in 2017.

Today’s opening celebrations included multi-station activities for local school pupils organised by Denis Law Streetsport and were attended by a host of household names.

Denis Law was joined by Jim Leighton, a Gothenburg Great with Neale Cooper in the famous Dons team of 1983, and former Pittodrie star Steve Archibald. Archie Knox, who as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen helped nurture Cooper as he made his breakthrough with the team, was also present.

Neale’s son Alex Cooper, speaking on behalf of the family, said: “We are proud to see dad’s memory being honoured in this way and to be part of the opening celebrations. Football was a huge part of his life from a young age and provided so many wonderful opportunities - we know Cruyff Court Neale Cooper will provide the next generation with the same chance to play and thrive. It’s a great facility and the emphasis on fun and enjoyment is something dad would wholeheartedly endorse.”

Councillor Jenny Laing, Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader, said: “It is fantastic to see Cruyff Court Neale Cooper open and already being used and enjoyed. Honouring Neale in this way is very fitting and it’s a pleasure to welcome the family to perform the official opening. This will be a hugely popular and important facility, providing a safe and supportive environment to encourage activity and build confidence. In providing £250,000 of funding for the project, the Council has underlined its commitment to the community. We want to give every young person in Aberdeen the chance to fulfil their potential and together with partners we’re innovating and investing to realise those ambitions.”

Denis Law said: “It’s a brilliant day for Neale’s family and all of the partners to see the project completed and the site come to life with lots of laughter and smiles. The first Cruyff Court has been a real asset to Aberdeen and to the work of our Streetsport team – there’s no doubt in my mind Cruyff Court Neale Cooper will be just as successful. We deliberately don’t set rules, but the house goals are for this to be a space for everyone to enjoy together as a safe and fun environment for young people.”

Graham Thom, Chairman of the Denis Law Legacy Trust, said: “We’re delighted to be marking the opening of Aberdeen’s second Cruyff Court and to be honouring the memory of Neale Cooper, one of the city’s most-loved sporting sons. The investment made by the Council and the Cruyff Foundation has created a wonderful facility and through our Streetsport team we look forward to bringing a range of activities to the community, with support and encouragement to get involved and enjoy new opportunities.”

Niels Meijer, director of the Johan Cruyff Foundation, said: “We’re very happy to open the Cruyff Court Neale Cooper thanks to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, Aberdeen City Council and the Denis Law Legacy Trust. It feels good to honour the legend Neale Cooper this way. The first Cruyff Court in Aberdeen has proven its impact and we’re excited to create more safe spaces in Scotland. This will be a huge enrichment for the community of Tullos for at least 10 years.”

There are more than 250 Cruyff Courts in more than 20 countries worldwide, creating a safe place to play for young people and designed to encourage participation in a range of sports as well as a place where they learn about respect, responsibility and integration.

The Denis Law Legacy Trust spearheaded the introduction of the concept to the north-east with support from the Foundation and Council.

Cruyff Court Denis Law has been hugely popular and includes sessions delivered as part of the Trust’s award-winning Streetsport programme, with Thursday night sessions attracting hundreds of young people and more than 1,200 participations in the first two years, helping to develop confidence and build skills in leadership and teamwork through a variety of activities.

A Cruyff Court tournament in Aberdeen enabled local schools to come together and also gave the opportunity for the winning boys and girls teams to compete nationally, travelling to Merseyside to take part in the UK finals and being given a VIP tour of Anfield as part of the prize.

The success provided the inspiration for the second Cruyff Court and Council-owned playing fields were identified as the preferred location following consultation with the community and project partners, who announced in September the Court would be named in honour of Neale Cooper.

Cooper, who passed away in 2018, was a key member of Aberdeen Football Club’s team in the European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph of 1983. He played more than 200 games for the Pittodrie side - also winning the European Super Cup, two Premier Division titles, the Scottish Cup on four occasions and the League Cup - having been recruited as a schoolboy.