Dons legend honoured as Aberdeen’s second Cruyff Court is named

Aberdeen’s second Cruyff Court will be named in honour of legendary Dons player Neale Cooper.

Project partners made the announcement today (5 September) as construction of the facility continues on land adjacent to Tullos Primary School.

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.

Cruyff Court Neale Cooper is a £300,000 community sports facility being built on local authority land.

Aberdeen City Council, the Denis Law Legacy Trust and the Johan Cruyff Foundation are working in partnership to lead the project. The Council has allocated £250,000 of funding for the project and the Cruyff Foundation has pledged £50,000.

Cruyff Court Denis Law, delivered by the same partners, became the first facility of its type in Scotland when it was opened at Catherine Street in 2017.

With Law’s contribution to putting Aberdeen on the international football map and his ongoing commitment to youth provision in the city recognised with the naming of the first site, another of the north-east’s best-loved sporting sons will be honoured at the second.

Denis Law said: “I’m delighted to announce the name has been selected by the project group and Cruyff Court Neale Cooper is a wonderful choice. Neale was a fantastic football player and lived the dream with his hometown club – as well as being an inspirational character.

“Neale’s death last year was a terrible shock to the football community and the tributes that followed from all over Britain and across the world showed the positive impact he had on so many people in so many ways.

“Cruyff Court Neale Cooper is being built to give young people the chance to thrive in a safe environment. If we can encourage those youngsters to develop even half of the enthusiasm, commitment and sense of fun that Neale had then we’ll have had real success.”

The Cooper family has welcomed the decision and said: "This is a wonderful tribute to Neale and one of which he would have been very proud. The family are all very honoured to have Neale’s name associated with two of the greatest footballers in Johann Cruyff and Denis Law. Neale was an inspiration to young people and as an Aberdonian through and through he would have been bowled over that his name lives on in his native city courtesy of this thoughtful compliment.”

Councillor Jenny Laing, Co-Leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “Neale Cooper is synonymous with the most successful period in Aberdeen’s sporting history and it is with great pleasure that the project partners make this announcement.

“Neale became a real local hero, having gone from playing youth football on the playing fields of Aberdeen to starring against Real Madrid in Gothenburg, but through his playing and coaching career on both sides of the border he became known and loved everywhere his career took him.

“Neale was always proud of his Aberdeen roots, just as Aberdonians take pride in him, and I’m sure the next generation who make use of Cruyff Court Neale Cooper will take inspiration from Neale’s great personal qualities and sporting achievements.”

Graham Thom, chairman of the Denis Law Legacy Trust, said: “There was unanimous support amongst project partners for recognising Neale Cooper. It was very important to us that we had the blessing of Neale’s family before finalising plans and their enthusiasm for the idea has been very welcome.

“Neale is someone who had Aberdeen in his heart and who recognised the role sport and activity had in his life. He valued the supportive environment that helped him flourish and the Cruyff Court concept is all about replicating that for the next generation. Nothing was ever too much trouble for Neale, particularly when it came to supporting charity causes and to encouraging youngsters to fulfil their potential, so it feels like the perfect fit.”

Niels Meijer, director of the Johan Cruyff Foundation, said: “The Cruyff Court Denis Law on Catherine Street and the cooperation with Denis Law Legacy Trust and Streetsport/RGU has been such a success that we didn’t hesitate when we were asked if we could help create a second Cruyff Court in Aberdeen. It is great that it will be named after a local hero like Neale Cooper, which will be beneficial both for the Cruyff Court and the whole community.”

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.

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.