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Millennium Post

Football will miss its Blank Panther

In an era when Brazilian soccer great Pele was widely regarded best in the world, the rise of a young Portuguese striker with breathtaking speed and ferocious accuracy swept the football world off its feet. The demise of legendary footballer Eusébio (da Silva Ferreira) last Sunday might marks the end of an era but Black Panther’s (as he was fondly nicknamed for his athletic prowess and clinical finishing) on-field heroics and generosity off it have been etched forever in the minds of football lovers across the globe. Born in Mozambique to an Angolan father, Eusébio could only play for Portugal since both the nations were its overseas territories and the inhabitants were considered Portuguese. Eusébio was truly the first great African footballer to dominate at world stage. Incidentally, just like Pele, Eusébio too was born into a relatively poor family and through sheer determination and hard work transformed his prodigious talent into world-wide super-stardom.

Eusébio scored an incredible 727 goals in 715 matches he played for Benfica. His goals helped the club win 11 Portuguese league titles and the prestigious European Cup 1962 in 1962 with Eusebio scoring twice in the final against Real Madrid. After the final which Benfica won 5-3 in Amsterdam, Rela Madrid’s legendary player Alfredo di Stefano gave his jersey to Eusébio who was unstoppable in the match. Stefano later recalled, ‘He came up to me to ask for my jersey after the game. I was delighted to give it to him. He was a born goalscorer and played football marvelously.’ He also helped Portugal achieve its best-ever finish in World Cup till date, a third place in England in 1966, with Eusébio being the topscorer with nine goals (including four in one match against North Korea).  Eusebio’s trademarks were his speed (he was a former under-19 Portuguese 400, 200 and 100m champion), quick dribbling skills and powerful and accurate right-footed shots. Until recently, Eusébio was the all-time leading scorer for Portugal with 41 goals in 64 matches.He was named European Footballer of the Year in 1965. Widely regarded as Portugal’s greatest player before the meteoric rise of Cristiano Ronaldo, Eusebio’s death touched the world beyond just the country he graced with such distinction throughout his long career.
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