Legendary Footballer Eusébio Dies

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Eusébio, one of the greatest footballers in the sport’s history, died from a heart attack on Sunday in Lisbon, Portugal. He was 71.

Nicknamed the “Black Panther,” he was one of the most revered players in the world, especially in Portugal, where his goalscoring prowess at the club and national team levels made him a national icon.

“Football has lost a legend,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter tweeted on Sunday. “But Eusebio’s place among the greats will never be taken away.”

Eusébio da Silva Ferreira was born in Mozambique in 1942 before moving to Portugal as a teenager to pursue a professional career with European powerhouse Benfica.

Not long after, his career soared. He was named European Footballer of the Year in 1965, and led Portugal to a third-place finish in the 1966 World Cup. He led all players in that tournament with nine goals.

In 64 appearances for A Selecção, he scored 41 goals, a federation benchmark that lasted over 30 years until Pauleta broke the record in 2006. However, Eusebio’s 0.64 goals/game average remains in the highest in federation history.

At the club level, Eusebio scored an astonishing 317 goals in 301 matches for Benfica from 1960-1975, and led them to 11 league titles, five Portugese Liga Cup titles and a European Cup championship in 1962. He won the European Golden Boot in 1968 and 1973.

After his European career reached its conclusion in 1975, he journeyed to the United States, where he played for the Boston Minutemen in 1975. He scored two goals in seven games for the NASL side before he moved on Toronto Metros-Croatia and the Las Vegas Quicksilvers. He retired in 1979.

With his playing days over, Eusebio devoted his energy to the Portuguese National Team as a member of the technical committee. He also remained close to Benfica, where he served as an ambassador for many years.

In 2006, a statue of the legendary scorer was erected at Gillette Stadium. Last year, he made one of his final public appearances when he served as honorary captain for Portugal in a Sept. 10 friendly against Brazil in Foxborough, Mass.

Revolution captain Jose Goncalves, who was born in Lisbon, took to Twitter on Sunday to remember the Portuguese legend.

“U will never be forgotten #Eusebio … Rest in Peace,” tweeted Goncalves.

Shortly after the news of his death was announced, the Portuguese government declared that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will be national days of mourning for the beloved footballer.

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com