Eusébio – Soccer Player (1942–2014)
Full name: Eusébio da Silva Ferreira
Date of birth: 25 January 1942
Place of birth: Lourenço Marques, Portuguese Mozambique
Date of death: 5 January 2014 (aged 71)
Place of death: Lisbon, Portugal
Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position: Striker
Eusébio da Silva Ferreira was born born on January 25, 1942, in Lourenço Marques, Portuguese East Africa (now Maputo, Mozambique). He was the greatest Portuguese football (soccer) player of all time. He was celebrated for his long runs through defenders and his deft scoring touch.
Eusébio is considered by many as one of the greatest footballers of all time. During his professional career, he scored 749 goals in 745 matches at club level and 41 goals for his national team, a total of 790 goals.
He helped Portugal reach third place at the 1966 World Cup, being the top goalscorer of the tournament with nine goals (including four in one match against North Korea) and received the Bronze Ball award. He won the Ballon d’Or award for European footballer of the year in 1965 and was runner-up in 1962 and 1966. He played for Benfica for 15 out of his 22 years as a footballer, thus being mainly associated with the Portuguese club, and is the team’s all-time top scorer with 638 goals scored in 614 official games. There, he won eleven Primeira Liga titles, five Taça de Portugal titles, a European Cup (1961–62) and helped them reach three additional European Cup finals (1963, 1965, 1968). He is the eighth-highest goalscorer in the history of the European Cup and the second-highest, behind Alfredo Di Stéfano, in the pre-Champions League era with 48 goals. He was the European Cup top scorer in 1964–65, 1965–66 and 1967–68. He also won the Bola de Prata (Primeira Liga top scorer award) a record seven times. He was the first ever player to win the European Golden Boot, in 1968, a feat he replicated in 1973.
He was elected the ninth-best footballer of the 20th century in a poll by the IFFHS and the tenth-best footballer of the 20th century in a poll by the World Soccer magazine. Pelé named Eusébio as one of the 125 best living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list. He was seventh in the online poll for UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll. In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA’s Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Portugal by the Portuguese Football Federation as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. He has been called “Africa’s first great footballer” and “Africa’s greatest-ever player”.
Eusébio was the leading scorer for his country, with 41 goals in 64 matches, until Pauleta equalled and surpassed his record against Latvia on 12 October 2005. Eusébio was also the most capped Portuguese player from 1972, until Tamagnini Nené made his 64th cap against Yugoslavia on 2 June 1984 in a friendly match, breaking Eusébio’s record during the UEFA Euro 1984 on 20 June against Romania. He made his debut for the Portugal national team against Luxembourg on 8 October 1961, a match his country lost 4–2, with the player scoring his country’s first goal in the match.
Eusébio won the Golden Boot as Europe’s top scorer in 1968 and 1973, and helped Benfica win 11 Primeira Liga titles before ending his run with the club in 1975. The iconic athlete spent most of the remainder of his career in North America, notably leading Toronto Metros-Croatia to victory in the 1976 Soccer Bowl, before retiring in 1979.
Eusébio made his debut for Benfica as a 19-year-old in 1961. Despite his youth, he overwhelmed opponents with his speed, elusive moves and powerful shots on goal. Although Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, few Europeans had witnessed an African player of such startling talent, and he was nicknamed “Pantera Negra” (Black Panther) and “Perla Negra” (Black Pearl) by admiring fans.
He affirmed that he was spotted by a former Juventus goalkeeper turned scout when he was 15 years old: “When I was 15, Juventus of Italy, wanted to hire me, because one of their scouts, who had been a famous Italian goalkeeper for them, saw me and told them that there was a boy with a potential, that it would be good to take advantage while I was still unknown. Juventus proposed but my mum never wanted to hear anything from anyone”.
Eusébio played for two seasons with their youth team, while he made sporadic appearances in the senior team. There he won the Campeonato Provincial de Moçambique and the Campeonato Distrital de Lourenço Marques in his last season, in 1960.
He moved to Lisbon in his late teens, after joining Benfica as an 18-year-old from his local club, Sporting Clube de Lourenço Marques, for 350,000 Portuguese escudos (equivalent to €136,000 in 2009). Benfica discovered Eusébio due to the efforts of Brazilian former player José Carlos Bauer, who saw him in Lourenço Marques in 1960. Eusébio could run 100 metres in 11 seconds. Bauer recommended Eusébio first to his former club, São Paulo, but the Tricolor turned him down. Bauer then discussed Eusébio with his former coach in São Paulo, Béla Guttmann, who was coaching Benfica at the time.
By 17 December 1960, Eusébio arrived at Lisbon and was sent to Lagos, in the Algarve, with Benfica fearing a kidnapping operation by Sporting rivals. During his transfer he was codenamed Ruth Malosso. He remained there for 12 days, until the transfer upheaval would calm down. While he stayed in a hotel room he was warned for possible running-overs. Eusébio considered leaving Portugal, but his mother convinced him to stay.
His debut in an official match was on 1 June 1961, against Vitória de Setúbal, in the third round second leg of the 1960–61 Taça de Portugal.
On 10 June 1961, Eusébio played for the first time in the Primeira Divisão, the last match day against Belenenses, where he scored a goal in a 4–0 win. On 15 June, Benfica played the final of the invitational Tournoi de Paris against Pelé’s Santos, and in the beginning of the second half, with Benfica down 0–4, Béla Guttmann decided to bring Eusébio from the bench to substitute Santana. Shortly after coming in, Santos reached 0–5. However, between the 63rd and the 80th minute, Eusébio scored 3 goals and suffered a foul inside the penalty area, the penalty taker, José Augusto, failed to score though. The game finished 6–3 for Santos, with Eusébio being on the cover of the famed French sporting newspaper, L’Équipe.
usébio scored twice in Benfica’s European Cup victory over Real Madrid in 1962, and he won the Ballon d’Or as the European Football Player of the Year in 1965. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his performance during the 1966 World Cup in England. After scoring twice to knock out defending champion Brazil, he netted an incredible four goals to help Portugal overcome a 3-0 deficit to North Korea in the quarterfinals. Eusébio scored once as Portugal came up short against eventual champion England, and again in the consolation victory over the Soviet Union. Although he was unable to lift his side to the ultimate victory, Eusébio made a lasting impression with his tournament-leading nine goals.
He received a number of individual accolades and awards while playing for Benfica. He was the 1965 European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d’Or) and finished as runner-up twice, in 1962 and 1966, and in 1968 was the first winner of the Golden Boot Award, as Europe’s leading scorer, a feat he repeated five years later. He was the Portuguese First Division’s top scorer seven times (1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970 and 1973), helping Benfica to win 11 Primeira Liga (1960–1961, 1962–63, 1963–64, 1964–65, 1966–1967, 1967–1968, 1968–1969, 1970–1971, 1971–1972, 1972–1973 and 1974–1975), 5 Portuguese Cup wins (1961–1962, 1963–1964, 1968–1969, 1969–1970 and 1971–1972), 1 European Cup win (1961–1962) and 3 European Cup finals (1962–1963, 1964–1965 and 1967–1968).
Eusébio scored 638 goals in 614 official matches for Benfica, including 317 goals in 301 Primeira Liga matches, 97 goals in 60 Taça de Portugal matches, and 59 goals in 78 matches of UEFA club competitions. Overall, he scored 727 goals in 715 matches wearing Benfica’s jersey.
In 1976–1977 and 1977–1978, Eusébio played for two smaller Portuguese clubs, Beira-Mar, in the first division, and União de Tomar, in the Second Division.
He also played in the North American Soccer League (NASL), for three different teams, from 1975 to 1977: Boston Minutemen (1975), Toronto Metros-Croatia (1976), and the Las Vegas Quicksilvers (1977).
He went on to play five games for the Buffalo Stallions during the 1979–1980 Major Indoor Soccer League season. He retired in 1979 and formed part of the technical committee of the Portugal national football team.
In addition to winning the Golden Boot (with nine goals) for the 1966 World Cup, Eusébio also set a record that year for the most penalties scored (shoot-out not included), with four. Eusébio’s four goals against North Korea in the quarter-final match also helped Portugal tie the record for largest deficit overcome in a win (three goals, equaling Austria in 1954) and he became the fifth player to score as many goals in a FIFA World Cup match, a record he jointly held until Oleg Salenko scored five in the 1994 World Cup. The English were so impressed by Eusébio’s performances that he was immediately added to the Madame Tussauds collection of waxwork.
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1957–1960 Sporting de Lourenço Marques 42 (77)
1960–1975 Benfica 301 (317)
1975 Boston Minutemen 7 (2)
1975 Monterrey 10 (1)
1975–1976 Toronto Metros-Croatia 21 (16)
1976 Beira-Mar 12 (3)
1976–1977 Las Vegas Quicksilvers 17 (2)
1977–1978 União de Tomar 12 (3)
1978–1979 New Jersey Americans 9 (2)
Total 431 (423)
Eusébio was born in the Mafalala neighborhood, Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Portuguese Mozambique on 25 January 1942. His parents were Laurindo António da Silva Ferreira, a white Angolan railroad worker from Malanje and Elisa Anissabeni, a black Mozambican woman. He was Elisa’s fourth child. Raised in an extremely poor society, he used to skip school classes to play barefoot football with his friends in improvised pitches and using improvised footballs. His father died from tetanus when Eusébio was eight years old, so Elisa almost exclusively took the parental care of young Eusébio.
Eusébio was a devout Roman Catholic and married Flora Claudina Burheim in 1965.
Eusébio was hospitalized with pneumonia in December 2011 and suffered several health setbacks in the following months, but he was healthy enough to join Benfica for its trip to the 2013 UEFA Europa League final in the Netherlands.
Eusébio died at his home on 5 January 2014 of heart failure, aged 71.
Following Eusébio’s death, the Portuguese government declared three days of national mourning. Hundreds of thousands paid tribute to him.
On 6 January 2014, a Mass was held at the Igreja do Seminário do Largo da Luz. On 9 January, one of his wishes was granted as his coffin was transported around the field of the Estádio da Luz. Three days later, his statue at the Praça Centenarium was transformed into a memorial. Hours later, the name “Eusébio” was on the back of Benfica players’ shirts during “O Clássico”.
On 5 January 2015, one year after his death, the avenue in front of the Estádio da Luz was renamed Avenida Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, becoming its new address.
On 3 July 2015, his remains were moved to the National Pantheon, in which important Portuguese personalities are buried. Parliament voted unanimously for him to be interred there. Eusébio was the first footballer to be buried at the Pantheon, and the ceremony was attended by the nation’s President and Prime Minister
Sporting de Lourenço Marques
- Campeonato Provincial de Moçambique: 1960
- European Cup: 1961–62
- Primeira Liga (11): 1960–61, 1962–63, 1963–64, 1964–65, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1974–75
- Taça de Portugal (5): 1961–62, 1963–64, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1971–72
- Taça de Honra de Lisboa (9): 1962–63, 1964–65, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1973–74, 1974–75
- Taça Ribeiro dos Reis: 1963–64, 1965–66, 1970–71
- NASL: 1976
- FIFA World Cup: Third place – 1966
- Ballon d’Or: 1965
- World Soccer World XI: 1965
- FIFA XI: 1963, 1967
- European Golden Boot: 1968 (first winner), 1973
- Bola de Prata (7): 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1973
- European Cup top scorer: 1965, 1966, 1968
- FIFA World Cup Golden Boot: 1966
- FIFA World Cup Bronze Ball: 1966
- FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1966
- Portuguese Footballer of the Year: 1970, 1973
- BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year: 1966
- Portuguese Golden Ball career award
- FIFA International Football Hall of Champions
- PFA Merit Award
- FIFA 100
- UEFA Jubilee Awards – Golden Player Portugal
- UEFA President’s Award
- France Football’s World Cup Top-100
- Planète Foot’s 50 Meilleurs Joueurs du Monde
- Voetbal International’s Wereldsterren
- Guerin Sportivo’s I 50 Grandi del Secolo
- World Soccer’s Selection of the 100 Greatest Footballers of All Time
- Placar’s 100 Craques do Século
- Venerdì’s 100 Magnifici
- Golden Foot Legends Award: 2003
- IFFHS’ World Players of the Century (Top-10)
- FIFA Order of Merit: 1994
- Grand Cross of the Order of Prince Henry
- Grand Cross of the Order of Merit