Monday, January 6, 2014

Football legend, Eusebio, dies at 71


Portuguese football legend Eusebio has died at the age of 71.
The forward scored an incredible 473 goals in 440 matches for Benfica, the Portuguese giants with whom he spent most of his career and won the European Cup in 1962.
He also scored 41 goals in 64 appearances for the Portugal national team, helping them to third place in the 1966 World Cup in England – a tournament in which he was top goalscorer with nine goals.
He memorably scored four goals in the 5-3 quarter-final win over North Korea at Goodison Park.
A spokesman for Benfica said: “We have just received confirmation of the death of Eusebio. It’s a very sad day for all of us.”
The club were unable to confirm details of Eusebio’s death but reports in Portugal say he died of a cardiac arrest in the early hours of Sunday morning.
He had been in poor health for some time and was hospitalised during Euro 2012 after suffering a heart scare in Poland.
Real Madrid confirmed they will hold a minute’s silence at the Bernabeu ahead of Monday’s league clash with Celta Vigo and that their players will wear black armbands in respect to Eusebio, with coach Carlo Ancelotti paying his respects in his pre-match press conference.
“It’s very sad news,” he said. “We want to send our best wishes to his family and his friends.”
Benfica fans will now be offered the chance to pay their final respects to the player at the Estadio da Luz later on Sunday.
“Eusebio’s body will be brought to the stadium later today and all fans will be able to say goodbye,” the spokesman said.
Nicknamed the Black Panther, Eusebio da Silva Ferreira was famed for his speed, technique and a fearsome right-foot shot that earned him 733 goals in 745 competitive matches in his career.
He is widely considered to be one of the best players to ever grace a football pitch.
Eusebio won the Ballon d’Or in 1965 and was runner-up in 1962 and 1966.
At Benfica, he helped them to 11 Portuguese League titles and five Cups, as well as establishing them as a major European force.
In 1962, he scored twice in a remarkable 5-3 win over the all-conquering Real Madrid in the final in Amsterdam.
However, his three other appearances in the European Cup final ended in defeat.
In 1963, he scored but Benfica lost 2-1 to AC Milan at Wembley; in 1965, Internazionale beat them 1-0 in the San Siro; and in 1968, Matt Busby’s Manchester United won 4-1 in extra time at Wembley.
He played his last match for Benfica in 1975 and played out his career largely in the North American Soccer League (NASL) before finally hanging up his boots in 1980
Current Portuguese hero Cristiano Ronaldo led the tributes, tweeting a picture of the pair and writing “Always eternal #Eusebio, rest in peace.”
Another former Portugal star, Luis Figo, also tweeted a picture with Eusebio and called him “the King!”
Eusebio was born in Portuguese East Africa, now known as Mozambique, on January 25, 1942.
Raised in poverty, he would skip school classes to play barefoot football with his friends on dirt pitches with balls made of socks and newspapers.
Eusebio and his friends would later form an amateur team named Os Brasileiros (The Brazilians) in honour of the 1950 Brazil World Cup side.
He was rejected by his favourite team and Benfica’s feeder side Gropo Desportivo de Lourenco de Marques, but joined Sporting Clube de Lourenco Marques.
At 15, he was spotted by a Juventus scout and offered youth terms in Italy, but his mum Elisa didn’t want him to move.
Having moved to Lisbon in his late teens, Eusebio joined Benfica at the age of 18 but the decision was controversial.
Sporting Clube de Lourenco Marques in Mozambique were the feeder club of Sporting Lisbon, Benfica’s great rivals, and they believed Eusebio had been illegally approached.
While the transfer upheaval died down, Eusebio was hidden in the Algarve by Benfica under a pseudonym.
His talent was well documented and Sporting were understandably disappointed to miss out on a young player who could run 100m in 11 seconds and possessed an almighty shot.
Eusebio’s Benfica debut came on June 1, 1961 against Vitoria Setubal in the Portuguese Cup and he scored and missed a penalty (one of just five he missed in his career) in a 4-1 defeat.
His breakthrough season came in 1961-1962: although Benfica would come only third in the league, he scored twice in the final of the Cup against Setubal.
His first full season as a professional was capped with a European Cup triumph as he scored twice in a 5-3 win over Real Madrid in the Amsterdam final.
League success came easily for Benfica and they became a feared force in continental competition throughout the Sixties.
Eusebio reached three more European Cup finals, in 1963, 1965 and 1968, but would never add a second winners’ medal.
In the dying seconds of the latter final with Manchester United, with the scores tied at 1-1, he was spectacularly denied in a one-on-one situation by goalkeeper Alex Stepney.
Instead of running back, Eusebio stood and applauded the save in a remarkable display of sportsmanship.
United went on to win 4-1 in extra time, becoming the first English side to win the European Cup, but Eusebio was warm in his praise of Stepney.
His Portugal debut came on October 8, 1961 against Luxembourg, a match they lost 4-2 despite a Eusebio goal.
English fans of a certain age will remember his brilliance at the 1966 World Cup, as his nine goals guided Portugal to third place.
Trailing 3-0 at Goodison Park to North Korea in the quarter-final, Eusebio scored four times to rescue a 5-3 win.
Despite scoring a late penalty, Eusebio’s World Cup dream was ended by England and he famously walked off the Wembley field in tears.

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