Eusebio da Silva Ferreira or better known as simply Eusebio died earlier this week on January 5th 2014 from an apparent cardiac arrest. His death was a huge bow to the soccer community. Eusebio led Portugal to 3rd place in the World Cup and Benefica to 11 domestic titles and 1 European Cup Title. Many Americans don't know very much about him, so this article is dedicated to his memory and serves to inform people of his legacy.
5: 1st Pure Athlete in soccer
Eusabio was one of the first pure athletes to play
His overall strength and speed put him head and shoulders above the competition of his time. Looking back at his highlight videos, you can see how he was by far the best athlete on the pitch. He would glide down the field with relative ease and take absolutely whizzing shots. While he was not the most technically gifted player, his pure athleticism catapulted him and Benefica to 4 European Cup final appearances and 1 European Cup trophy.
The Benefica poster boy
Eusebio played over 22 years of professional football, 15 of them with Benefica. While not unheard of at this time, few players remained at their club for an extraordinary amount of time and fewer still stayed for 15 years. Eusebio began his Benefica career at the age of 19 and only departed for the States when he was 34. By the time he left Portugal he had already cemented himself as a legend and this was only further proven by his comments in retirement. His last wish was for his funeral to stop by Benefica's Estadio de Luz (Stadium of Light). Portugal granted Eusebio's request with thousands of fans in attendance.
3: First Successful African Signing
Eusabio was born in the Portuguese controlled Mozambique. He played for a small youth club team, Sporting Clubes de Lourenco Marques, at the age of 15. He was scouted by a former Juventes goalkeeper but was not quite interested in leaving the continent yet. Four years later Benefica purchased him from the African club. His success in Lisbon was extraordinary, in 614 games he scored 638 goals for them. His first performance came against Brazil's Santos and the legendary Pele. Benefica were down 4-0 at halftime. After being substituted in the second half, Eusebio scored a hat trick. His performance caught the eye of Pele, who asked, "Who is that African guy? He is going to be really good." Eusebio's success on the European continent helped pave the way for future Africans to make the move to larger market teams and earn more money and exposure.
2: Confident Gentleman
Many super star athletes succumb to becoming overly egotistic. The fame and relative fortune the sport brings to players from small towns and villages can be too much for many athletes. Eusebio never become a diva and that might be why every Portuguese person loves him. There are clips of him missing a last second chance against England in the 1966 World Cup. His response was a hand shake and a good job to the English goalkeeper. however, this did mean he lack any confidence. Crosstown rivals Sporting Lisbon invited Eusebio to audtion for their team. Eusebio declinded, stating that he was better than everyone on the team.
Eusebio's legacy is mainly due to the absurd amount of goals he scored and his outright effort on the pitch. As mentioned early, he averaged over a goal to game during his Benefica campaign. He won the Ballon d'Or in 1965 and was always was in the discussion for the award during the 60's. Benefica won their last European Trophy with him in 1961 and were runners-up in 1962, 194 and 1967. Even at the end of his career he managed to score 5 goals in 4 appearances with the New Jersey Americas before retiring due to injuries.
Perhaps his best individual performance was the 1966 World Cup. Portugal were grouped with the prestigious Brazil but eliminated from the tournament with relative easy. Their first competition in the playoff round was North Korea. The Koreans dominated the game and within 25 minutes were leading Portugal by 3 goals to nil. Eusebio reportedly told his teammates that if they scored maybe one or two goals before halftime they would win. He then scored to goals before the half was over and two more goals within 15 minutes of the second half starting. His 4 goal performance sealed Portugal's victory and advancement into the semifinal game against England. Portugal lost versus England but did manage a third place finish, their best world cup finish to date.