The soccer world last Sunday, January 5, 2014 lost one of its greats, Eusibio da Silva Ferreira in Lisbon. Originally from Mozambique he played for Portugal because his country was under colonial rule at the time.
He was 71, and would have been 72 on Jan. 25, 2014.
He featured for Benfica, and played for the Portugal national football team.
He was adoringly called Black Panther by soccer fans because of his passion and the ability to make things happen on the field. It was also due to the respect that he earned as a black man, just as many Europeans described African players as Pele after the Brazilian legendary marksman who played at the time Eusibio was part of the Portuguese team.
Eusibio was a maestro in the midfield and during the World Cup in 1966, the Portuguese team revolved around him.
At age 24, Eusibio played marvelously and endeared himself to both Portuguese and Mozambique fans. He was signed on by Benfica, which rumors indicated he had been kidnapped. The rumor died down after the team signed him on.
In the 1966 World Cup he led Portugal to the third place. In a match against North Korea, after Portugal had eliminated Brazil, the Portuguese were down by 3-0 in the first 25 minutes. It was the magic of Eusibio that changed the Portuguese’s misfortune when he scored four goals to win 5-4.
“That was the best game of my life in a Portugal jersey,” Eusebio reportedly said. “It left its mark on me.”
In a recent panel of 100 experts under FIFA’s authority, Eusibio was ranked as one of soccer’s 10 greats.
Eusibio was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1965 and won the Golden Boot—in 1968 and 1973. At his prime he was 5 feet 9 inches, and weighed about 160 pounds, research has indicated.
He was born on Jan. 25, 1942, to an Angolan father. When his death was announced the Portuguese government announced three days of national mourning to show its appreciation to his contribution to Portuguese football development.
He scored 679 goals in 678 official games, according to FIFA, the world’s football governing body. He helped Benfica to win 11 league titles and five Portuguese Cups and Portugal made him a national asset by then Portugal leader Antonio Salazar, which made it impossible for him to leave Portugal. He remained an ambassador of Benfica, which placed a bronze statue of him outside the Stadium of Light, where fans gathered Sunday night.
Eusebio’s legacy, according to New York Times report, “can be easily seen in the documentary, ‘Goal! The World Cup of 1967;’ in the third match of the first round, a Portuguese player steamrollered the sport’s greatest star, Pelé, already playing with an injury. Eusebio stood by Pelé as the medics attended to him. The rumor was that Eusebio chastised his teammate, but he said, no, he stood by Pelé because, “He is my friend.”