The soccer world has lost a legend today as international superstar Eusebio da Silva Ferreira of Portugal passed away from heart failure at his home on Sunday, January 05, 2014. He was 71 years old. Eusebio, affectionately known as the “black panther” for his skills and prowess on the pitch, had suffered from heart and respiratory problems in the last year having several hospital stays.
He was born in Maputo, Mozambique in 1942, then a colony of Portugal. He was discovered by Benfica at age 18 and was brought on to play at the Estadio da Luz. Eusebio came to fame with the Portuguese club in the 1960s. Official FIFA records state that he scored 679 goals in 678 official games. The “black panther” also spent a season in Mexico in 1975 where he played with CF Monterrey. He arrived in the final stages of his career after undergoing surgeries on his knees.
“My pass through Monterrey was fantastic and phenomenal,” Eusebio said during an interview with Brazilian journal Globoesporte in 2011. “A magnificent experience from the beginning. It was the way I was received, the president, the staff, they all wished me success, and offered me help. They even gave me the captain’s band.”
Eusebio played in 10 games in the Sultana del Norte where he scored a goal. He helped the team reach the semifinals where they fell to Universidad de Guadalajara. The then 33 year-old arrived from the American Soccer League’s Boston Minutemen. He arrived at a time when the city was beginning to take interest in the world sport making him a pioneer in Mexico.
While he played most of his career with Benfica, he is best known for a turnaround game against North Korea at the 1966 World Cup in England in the quarterfinals. Portugal was down 3-0 when Eusebio came to life. He netted four goals for the Portuguese in a game that ended 5-3 in their favor. Portugal would finish the tournament in 3rd place.
Players and world football personalities made statements about the legend’s passing on personal accounts.
“Always eternal Eusebio, rest in peace,” Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo said on his Facebook page.
“On this day of (Eusebio’s) death… I prefer to look upon him as immortal,” Chelsea FC coach Jose Mourinho told RTP.
“Football has lost a legend,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter said via Twitter. “But Eusebio’s place among the greats will never be taken away.”
The Portuguese government declared three days of mourning with flags flying at half-mast. Eusebio’s coffin was to be taken to the Stadium of Light, home of Benfica, prior to burial.