Sunday, January 05, 2014
For anybody under the age of say 35 it is hard to imagine a time where there wasn't wall to wall coverage of football on our television screens. Back in the 1960's though you had to make do with the Saturday offerings of BBC's Match of The Day, the Sunday lunchtime ITV programme The Big Match (and all its embarrassing regional variations) and the occasional sightings of our national and international teams in Europe and beyond through Grandstand or Sportsnight (with the recently departed David Coleman). Here you would see European club competitions, World Cup's and the Home Internationals.
The overseas players who could be glimpsed through foggy Lisbon nights or the glitter of Milanese glamour always seemed more exotic, better technically and infinitely more stylish, there were exceptions of course Bobby Moore and George Best could hold their own both on and off the pitch against the likes of Luigi Riva and Eusebio da Silva Ferreira.
Eusebio kicked the ball harder than anyone I have ever seen, with the possible exception of Peter Lorimer, when he hit it it stayed hit. Those performances on English soil in the 1966 World Cup and the 1968 European Cup Final brought his skill and humility into the homes of millions. When David Coleman said, "Oh my word!" after Eusebio scored yet another goal in the World Cup he spoke for a watching nation. Pele may have been kicked out of the competition and England may well have won it but the Mozambique born goal machine was undoubtedly the star.
Eusebio had a goals to games ratio (excluding friendlies) that is the eighth best in the history of the game, he scored 585 goals in 571 games at club level and added a further 41 in 64 games for his country. In terms of honours he also had a record that stands comparison with any other player current or past, possibly only Ryan Giggs and Xavi exceed his exploits at club level - 11 Portuguese titles, five Portuguese Cup wins, a European Cup winners medal plus runner-up in three European Cup Finals, European Footballer of The Year, European Golden Boot (twice), World Cup Golden Boot (1966).
Eusebio was also voted as 10th best player of the 20th century in a poll by World Soccer.
As well as that right foot and his goalscoring the thing I will remember most about Eusebio is his humility on the pitch. The applauding of Alex Stepney in the 1968 European Cup Final after the Manchester United keeper had yet again thwarted a Benfica attack, the tears of defeat after England had beaten his Portugal in the 1966 World Cup Semi-Final, the graciousness in defeat - something he had to endure three times at Wembley (Benfica had lost 2-1 in the 1963 European Cup Final to Milan despite Eusebio scoring the opening goal).
Posted by Paul at 1:52 PM