Eusebio dies at 71: five facts about the Benfica legend

Jan 6, 2014

The Portuguese legend was actually from Mozambique and lost three times at Wembley

PORTUGUESE football legend Eusebio has died of heart failure at the age of 71.   The striker, who spent 15 years of his 22-year career with Benfica and won 11 Portuguese titles and one European cup with the club, was known as the Black Panther and was perhaps Portugal's most revered sporting figure.   But here are five things you might not know about the player:  

He was not really Portuguese: Eusébio da Silva Ferreira was born in what is now the town of Maputo in Mozambique in 1942. His father was a white Angolan railway worker and his mother was a black Mozambican woman. But in the 1940s both countries were overseas territories ruled by Lisbon and their inhabitants were considered Portuguese. Although he played 64 times for Portugal he is now considered the first great African footballer, says the Daily Mirror.

He almost joined Sporting Lisbon: Eusebio began his career with his local club in Mozambique, Sporting Clube de Lourenço Marques, and in 1960 was recommended to Benfica by a Brazilian player who had seen him in action. However, his club in Africa was affiliated to Sporting Lisbon and they were unhappy about Benfica's move. His transfer was a cloak and dagger affair. After being flown to Portugal in late 1960 Eusebio was given the codename Ruth Malosso and spirited away to the Algarve amid fears he would be kidnapped, or even run over, by Sporting. He did not actually play for Benfica until May 1961. 

He scored more than a goal a game: Eusebio was a deadly striker with wonderful dribbling skills and he helped Benfica dominate the Portuguese league throughout the 1960s. He scored 727 goals in 715 games for Benfica and found the net 41 times in 64 international appearances for Portugal.  

He got the better of Pele, Di Stefano and Puskas: Although he was only ranked ninth in the list of great players of the 20th century, Eusebio dominated the era in which he played. In 1961 he played against Pele's touring Santos team and though the Brazilians won 6-3, Eusebio stole the show with a second-half hat-trick. A year later he outshone both De Stefano and Puskas in the European Cup final. According to The Times he "ran riot" in the second half, scoring twice as Benfica won 5-3. Four years after that Eusebio guided Portugal to the semi-final of the 1966 World Cup, knocking out Pele's Brazil on the way.  

He must have hated Wembley: Wembley was not the happiest hunting ground for Eusebio. His Benfica team lost the 1963 European Cup final there, losing 2-1 to AC Milan. Three years later Eusebio returned to face England in the semi-final of the 1966 World Cup. Although he scored a late goal for Portugal, England won 2-1 thanks to two goals from Bobby Charlton. Two years later there was more misery as Benfica lost another European final, this time to Manchester United. Eusebio had the chance to win the match for Benfica in the final seconds of normal time, but was thwarted by a fine save from United keeper Alex Stepney. Eusebio's reaction was to applaud and shake his hand.  

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