When the Benfica team arrived in Iraq in November of 1966, all eyes were on their star striker Eusébio. Less than four months earlier, he had enthralled football fans with his breath-taking skills, pace and outstanding goals at the World Cup in England. After his exploits in England, Eusébio had been considered the greatest player in the world after his 9 goals in the World Cup earned Portugal a third place finish in their first ever World Cup finals while also earning himself the Golden Boot for being leading scorer in the tournament.
The Star of the Show
Eusébio and friends use to cut out pictures of their idols from Europe and glue them into old telephone books using gum extracted from trees. Eusébio’s idol was Real Madrid’s Alfredo Di Stefano “The Maestro” and he hoped one day that he would play in Europe like him. Eusébio was born with the ball at his feet playing with his friends. He spent hours playing the game he loved under the palm tree, however while he was playing football, he was neglecting his school work, something his mother Elisa didn’t approve of.
Eusébio neglected his school work, because of his love of playing football. His mother Elisa, who worked hard trying to feed eight children, didn’t like him skipping school to kick a ball of rags. She told him that he would not succeed in life without a good education. His mother’s words were sometimes useless, therefore together with her angry words, she would sometimes beat him to teach him to go to school instead of cutting classes.
At the age of 12, he was playing alongside his friends in a team called Os Brasileiros FC “The Brazilians”. Where the groups of players tried to emulate the Brazil stars such as Didi and Garrincha. The reason for the name was simple, the Brazilian national team and football as a whole, fascinated the young men. They had seen a number of Brazilian teams play in Marques, which had left a mark on the youngsters, making them want to emulate their heroes.
Eusébio Da Silva Ferreira was born in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique in the quarters of Xipamanine on January 25, 1942. Eusébio’s father died when he was only six, but the stories that his older relatives and friends told him about the way his father used played in the bare fields of his native land lived on in his memory.” I got to see him play, he had style. I felt his loss very much “. The son of Elisa Anissabeni, he grew up in a house made of copper and zinc in the quarters of Mafalála and started playing football in the open grounds of the former Portuguese colony as long as he can remember and confesses that he’d never even seen real goalposts until he was 12. His passion for football started at an early age and he used to play bare-foot in the hot sand under the sun, using four rocks as goals posts playing alongside his friends. The ball was made up of old stockings and rags, but over a period of time, he bought a rubber ball at the cost of 12 escudos. Eusébio adored those games in the sand and would sometimes skip school and use his books as goal posts. He use to play if possible from morning to night on the streets. Brazilian flair and style. ” The Brazilians ” distributed nicknames of their idols to the players at the club; Pelé, Didi, Garrincha… Eusébio was known as Pelé. But Eusébio was a player that justified the name.
At the age of 15 and already earning himself a reputation of being a goalscorer, Hilário, a friend of his oldest brother told the directors of the Sporting Club of Lourenço Marques of the promising player. When they had spoken to the Pelé of the ” Brazilians ” in joining Sporting, he first refused. The reason was that he wanted to join Desportivo, the club that was in his heart and their former star, Mário Coluna now at Benfica was his idol. Eusébio confessed later; ” To play and wear the jersey of Desportivo was my dream. ” Curiously, Eusébio never would play for Desportivo, not even train with them.
The clubs controllers refusal to let Eusébio join the team, leaving a mark in the heart of the player. “I was there at training, the first time they did not accept me nor had they given me any equipment to train with. I was offended, but, even so, still I made a second attempt. But they didn’t care, they did not see what I was able to do, my skills were neglected again”. ” I wanted to make a life for myself playing football, but I confess that I was confused at the time, with my friends always telling me to go to Lisbon, that is where I could build a career… ”
After three years at the club, he became a regular in the first team and in his first full season, he helped the club to become league champions while also topping the goalscoring charts. “It was that day in disgust that I decided to join Sporting. deep down, I just wanted to play football”. His mother also told him to go to Sporting ” Just leave this. As you only want to play, and they do not want you, you go to Sporting, because they have already spoken with me and I have agreed.”
When it came for Eusébio to line-up against his beloved Desportivo, he declined but the clubs owners told him he had to play. In the game, Eusébio scored all 3 goals in the 3-1 win over their rivals but as his team-mates jumped for joy, Eusébio felt sad as if he had committed treason for scoring a hat-trick against the club he supported, he felt it hard to hold back the tears. At the club Eusébio made little money, playing as an amateur along with his teammates. Once in a while, one of the club’s directors would give him some coins in order for him to buy a cinema ticket. But his talent deserved much more, so one day they offered him a job in the offices of an automobile’s accessories firm, where he earned 1200 escudos. He worked in the archive department, but he felt it was not the job he was born to do. He worked there for six months.
However, the last days of 1960 were exhausting. Unexpectedly, news arrived that Sporting Lisbon wanted Eusébio to train at the Alvalade for the club to have a look at him and also to enhance his experience. Eusébio was happy and thought that it would be a chance of a lifetime. The club Eusébio was playing for was a branch of Sporting Lisbon and at that time Portuguese clubs had various connections in Africa monitoring the talent on the continent and had numerous of letters coming into the club every week telling them about Africa’s stars of the future, which was how the club was informed about Sporting Club of Lourenço Marques star forward. But when he arrived home to face his mother, he lost all the enthusiasm and forgot the words that he thought of walking back home to convince his mother to travel to Portugal. “I will only leave Lourenço Marques with a confirmed contract. Experience nor adventures interest me” Eusébio said as Sporting Lisbon’s interest in him faded after he turned down the chance. But then came the stroke of luck, at the time one of the top Brazilian clubs São Paulo F.C were in Mozambique after stopping off at the African country on their way to play in Europe.
Sporting Club had played a friendly game with the Brazilian club and later after the game Eusébio had heard that the coach of São Paulo had wanted to sign him but his club had asked for a fee of $20,000 dollars and the São Paulo directors decided against buying the young forward thinking that it was not worth paying that kind of money for an unknown player.
However rather than the interest in Eusébio by the Brazilian club São Paulo fade away, it triggered off a chain of events that took him to Lisbon and Benfica. The coach of São Paulo Jorge Bauer, a former Brazilian international was a close friend of Benfica’s Hungarian coach Béla Guttmann, they knew each other when Guttman was a coach at São Paulo during Bauer’s playing career at the club.
The pair accidently met up at a barbers in Lisbon and during their conversation Bauer mentioned a player he wanted to sign from Mozambique, hearing all about this ‘player from Africa’, Guttman wanted to see this player for himself. He told the Benfica President “If Bauer thinks this boy is worth 20,000 dollars then he must be good”. Around five weeks later, Guttman was in Lourenço Marques. FC Porto were the first team to take an interest in the player but it was Benfica who came into the picture to sign him, the club owners nominated Gastão Da Silva to arrange a contact in Mozambique. The chosen contact was person who lived in a house located in the Avenida da Républica in Lourenço Marques, his name was Mário Tavares de Melo.
However, Sporting Lisbon had already offered 1200 escudos in advance for Eusébio, without even having spoken with the player. The hunt for the player had started. As Eusébio was under age, his mother needed to sign the deal in order for it to be valid. But the directors did not get to speak to Eusébio’s mother. Mário Tavares de Melo, Major Rodrigues de Carvalho and Armando Silva – Eusébio’s cousin – went to Eusébio’s home. They managed to convince Eusébio to make a deal with Benfica, Eusébio was called, he showed up and someone put 250 contos mozambicanos in bills on the dinning table, which would be given to the player if agreed to close the deal, but only after hard negotiations the deal was closed, Eusébio was yet uncertain about his new adventure.
On the midnight of December 14th, 1960, in the home of Mário Tavares de Melo in Avenida da República, Major Rodrigues de Carvalho and Eusébio ‘s cousin Armando Silva, all waited and despaired for the phone call from Lisbon that was scheduled for that hour to inform the people in Lisbon of the developments of the deal. To prevent anyone knowing that they were at home, the lights were switched off.
They seem to have been waiting hours until the phone rang but it was a poor line, fearing that the club could lose the deal at anytime, the controllers of Benfica through their spokesmen Gastão Da Silva asked if Eusébio could arrive in Lisbon as quickly as he could to sign a contract. Eusébio still unsure about the move tried to postpone his journey to Portugal speaking of farewells to his friends, clothes that he needed and luggage that he did not have, even telling them that he could get the luggage from his cousin more than 500 kilometers from Lourenço Marques. His mother asked if they could postpone the move just until after Christmas, so he could spend the time at home with his family, but Benfica stated that the registration for new players ended on the 20th of December, so he had to leave if he wanted to be eligible for the remaining 1960/61 season.
The club arranged for a luggage full of clothes for Eusébio and took him to the airport. At the departure, he hugged his mother tightly while crying and was almost forced into the plane. Eusébio arrived during the night at the Portela Airport in Lisbon with a passport in the name of Antonio Ferreira.
He recalls “It was only later that I came to know that Lisbon was a beautiful and unforgettable city”. He was greeted by three owners of the club and a journalist from O BOLA , Cruz dos Santos. They bundled him into a taxi and traveled to Benfica, where Eusébio had a sandwich and put in a room where Torres and Amândio slept, they were the first team-mates he met. In the morning he was presented to the remaining team-mates including Mário Coluna “He was an idol of mine when I was a boy, Mário Coluna played at my club Desportivo, he was a player that I always dreamed of equaling, I trembled with emotion” Eusébio added. The others players made fun of him, as he was the new boy, unknown to them he would become the best player ever to play for the Benfica, but soon the jokes ended. In his first training session, he managed to astonish his new colleagues and coach with the way he played. Looking at Eusébio’s frightening power, pace and skill. The Benfica coach Belá Guttman told his assistant ” He’s gold, he’s gold”. A star was born.
In order for Eusébio to travel aboard he needed his mother’s authorisation because he was a minor. There were several phone calls between Gastão Silva (The head of football at Benfica) and Mário Tavares Melo so that that was made possible like many others before to reach an agreement on the details and tuning of strategies. And it was in those documents that in order to confuse the Sporting spies they used codes: Eusébio was…. Rute and Mário Tavares de Melo, he was… Conceição Malosso! The reason for the problems was that the other Lisbon giant Sporting Lisbon insisted that Eusébio belonged to them although he’d never signed any agreement with them. Up Until then, everything was going like a perfect dream for Eusébio but then the troubles started. He realised that something was not right and that he wouldn’t be wearing the Benfica jersey as soon as he had wished.
“It was as if they tied me down. It was a very bitter period in my life, I never thought that they would be capable of calling my mother trying to pass as being me. It was confusing for me, so many complications, all I wanted to do was play football. I felt discouraged, it was the healthy friendship that existed within the club that helped me live my life, which was full of doubts. Benfica really helped me a lot, they took me to Austria and Denmark, I witnessed that sad moment at the Prater stadium brought upon by the Austrians, for the first time I saw people losing their heads because of a result of a game”
Lourenço Marques had been formed by former Sporting Lisbon fans and for years there had been an agreement between the two clubs to use the club as a kind of nursery team and give them any talented player. This was not uncommon as majority of the big clubs in Portugal such as FC Porto, Sporting and Benfica financed nursery teams in Mozambique and Angola to unearth a wealth of talent in Africa for their first teams and maybe the national team. A number of players where brought into the top clubs this way such as Benfica’s Captain and star forward José Águas (Angola) and midfielder Mário Coluna (Mozambique).
Eusébio found himself in the middle of a great struggle between the two Lisbon based clubs, and the dispute raged on and on. The squabble went on for more than seven months, and for all that time the youngster was kept in hiding in quiet hotel in a tiny fishing village on the Algarve coast in southern Portugal along with two Benfica coaching staff. One day he phoned his mother and told her “Mom, I’m coming back, because there are men here that wish to harm me” But his mother always the calm one replied ”Take it easy, son. Calm down, the people in Benfica are going to fix it.” Sporting appealed to the Portuguese F.A. and later went to court before it was finally agreed that he would stay with Benfica. The good news came from a phone call from Gastão Silva to one of the coaching staff in Algarve “Call the kid and tell him that it is all taken care of, he has already been enrolled by the Portuguese Football Federation to play for Benfica”. Finally, he got the news he was waiting for so much. He jumped for joy. “It was a great feeling. I only wanted to play, and during the nights I felt so anguished since the problem was taking too much time to be solved. I was used to score goals and was afraid that when I finally played officially I wouldn’t be able to score anymore.”
The dispute was finally settled and Eusébio made his debut for the Benfica reserve team on the 23rd May, 1961 against Atlético at the Tapadinha stadium, Benfica won 4-2 with Eusébio scoring a hat-trick in his first game. Only four days later, he scored 2 goals for the reserves in a 6-1 win over Olivais in the AFL Cup before and then on the 31st of May he was called up to the first team to play in the Portuguese Cup against Vitória de Setúbal, Eusébio scored again but Benfica eventually lost 4-1. On the 8th of June, he scored a goal for the reserves in a 2-1 win over Belenenses in the AFL Cup and two days later, he was called up by Benfica’s Hungarian coach Béla Guttmann to make his first team debut against Belenenses, Benfica again won with Eusébio grabbing one of the goals in a 4-0 win. A few weeks later Benfica met C.F. Barcelona in the first of their European Cup Finals at the Wankdorf Stadium in Berne, Switzerland. Eusébio sat on the trainer’s bench with several other reserves watching Benfica win 3-2. Coach Béla Guttmann had explained to Eusébio that though it tempted him to play him in the European Cup Final he had decided against it in view of his inexperience and would slip him into the team in relatively unimportant friendly matches during the summer.
Less than a month later Benfica were invited to Paris alongside Brazil’s Santos and Belgium’s RSC Anderlecht, where Racing Club de Paris were staging their annual international tournament Tournoi de Paris. Benfica made it into the final with a 3-2 win over RSC Anderlecht with Eusébio scoring one of the goals. On the 16th June 1961, Eusébio finally announced his arrival at Benfica. He wasn’t expected to play, but after the team was 5-0 down to Pele’s Santos, the Benfica coach thought the experience would do him good and with half an hour left, he put Eusébio on in place of inside-left Santana. The following season things went even better for Eusébio after he was called up to play for the Portuguese national team by Fernando Peyroteo after scoring 23 goals in 16 games for Benfica in their 1st team and reserve side in little under 5 months in Portuguese football. He made his international debut on the 8th October 1961 against Luxembourg, but was unable to guide his team to victory as Portugal lost 4-2, managing only one goal in his first game. Seventeen days later, he was playing at Wembley stadium in his 2nd international game but again Portugal came second losing 2-0 to England as they failed to reach the 1962 World Cup.
“Those thirty minutes went like a dream for me. After only five minutes Benfica captain Mário Coluna opened up the Brazilian defence with a great run and though he could have scored himself he pulled the ball back the ball for me. ‘Shoot!’ he said, ‘Shoot!’ … and there was Gilmar, Brazil’s World Cup keeper, picking the ball out of the net. Before the end I was lucky enough to score twice more and Pelé got another for Santos to give them a 6-3 win, but I walked off the Parc des Princes with my head in the clouds. The following season everything happened just right for me. I kept a regular place in the first team and after eliminating Tottenham Hotspur in the semi final we beat Real Madrid 5-3 in Amsterdam. Though I scored two of Benfica’s goals that day, and have hit many time since, I can’t imagine any goal giving me a greater thrill than those I got against Santos.”
After winning the 1961 Championship in his first season, he went onto to score 2 goals in a 3-0 win over Vitória Setúbal in the 1962 Taça de Portugal (Portuguese Cup) final, but the highlight of his season happened a month earlier when he helped Benfica to their 2nd consecutive European Cup in Amsterdam, Holland on the 2nd of May 1962. If Benfica could win the European Cup for the 2nd time, the players would get 25 contos each while the Real Madrid players would get 250 contos. But Eusébio not only wanted the 25 contos, but he wanted to beat Real Madrid and win the European Cup. Benfica came up against the great Real Madrid that included stars such as Santamaria, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Francisco Gento, but they were swiped aside by Eusébio and his colleagues. However, it was not all plain sailing as the 5 times European Cup champions took the lead with Hungarian goal machine Ferenc Puskas in the first quarter of an hour and added another a few minutes later but goals from Benfica Captain José Águas and Cavém brought the Portuguese level until Puskas hit his third around 4 minutes after Benfica had equalised as Benfica went into half-time 1-0 down.
In the Benfica dressing room at half-time, coach Belá Guttman tried to spur on his players telling them to give everything they could to win, it worked six minutes into the second half, Benfica equalised with a goal from midfielder Mário Coluna, then the game was turned on its head by two goals in 4 minutes from Eusébio, which gave Benfica their 2nd European cup and ended the great Real Madrid and their total domination of the tournament.
“Benfica had conquered the most important club cup in Europe, but for me, Di Stefano’s jersey was much greater, I felt great for having it.”
But, he had to make an effort so he wouldn’t loose it. In the thrill of victory and because he had scored two goals, the crowd had taken his clothes. He was being carried by the fans on the pitch, bare-foot, almost naked, with the cup in his right hand and the left one in his underwear to protect the shirt he had hidden there. When he got back to the dressing rooms, he took it out and kissed it with devotion. In 1962, Italian club Juventus and Spanish giants Real Madrid both made a tempting offer of 25,000 contos ($1 million dollars). Eusébio was euphoric with the prospect of moving abroad for an astronomical mount of money ” At that time it almost gave me enough to buy the Restauradores (a public square in the city of Lisbon). But his joy was short-lived, Portugal’s leader Salazar had decided to consider Eusébio as a patron of the state, making it impossible for him to move abroad. Salazar told Eusébio not to think about leaving as he was a patron of the State. A little later, the Black Panther was called to fulfill his military service, as he forgot all the talks of moving to Italy or Spain.
In the beginning, he did not understand what it all meant. At the young age of 19, he could not understand the political importance that his international fame meant to the dictator Salazar. He also ignored that his destiny would be one of corners of the 3 F’s trilogy – FATIMA, FADO, FUTEBOL (Fatima – world known sanctuary, Fado Portuguese type of music, Futebol = football) of which the regime’s leaders were so proud of. “I was never a politician, much less at that time. Suddenly, I thought to myself I don’t know the person, he is not my relative, how come he can stop me from making a fortune? I was hurt very much by that. Today, I could be not as I am and have a fortune that I will never be able to get.”
On his third visit to Sao Bento (Government House), they told him again that he couldn’t leave the country, he faced the dictator and dared to say: “I can’t be a patron of a country, I don’t earn anything.” As an answer he got a little slap on his back, a condescending smile, but he soon understood that escort that kept following him, especially in the games abroad, came from back then. “I was being watched without knowing. I never considered myself as a symbol. Although I only finished the fourth grade in Portugal (during his time in Algarve), I know to distinguish things and as I was getting older, I learnt and I understood that politicians use athletes. I was used but it was only later that I understood that.”
The following season, Eusébio won the league but was unable to help Benfica to their third European Cup at Wembley against Italian club AC Milan. He opened the scoring in the 19th minute with a great individual goal but it was only prove to be a consolation as José Altafini hit 2 goals in the second half to hand AC Milan the title.
In season 1963/1964, Eusébio won the league and cup double while also topping the goalscoring charts with 28 goals in 19 league games. The next season, he was voted European Footballer of the Year after helping Benfica to the European Cup final, where they lost 1-0 to Internazionale of Italy and leading Benfica to the league title while scoring 28 goals in 20 league games to top the goalscoring charts for the second season. However, Eusébio’s greatest achievement of that year was helping Portugal qualify for their first ever World Cup finals after helping them top a group including Czechoslovakia, Turkey and Romania. The Black Panther excelled with the national team scoring a hat-trick in the 5-1 opening qualifying win over Turkey in Lisbon and then hitting the only goal in Ankara against the same opponents in Portugal’s 2nd game. He continued his fine form with the winning goal against Czechoslovakia in a 1-0 win in Bratislava and then hit 2 goals against Romania to book Portugal’s place in their first ever World Cup. It is what happened in the 1966 World Cup that Eusébio will always be remembered for. He helped Portugal top their group beating Hungary in the opening game 3-1 and then scored his first goal in the World Cup in a 3-0 win over Bulgaria. In the last group game, Eusébio came up against Pelé‘s Brazil, who needed a win to book their place in the quarter finals after picking up only 2 points in their 2 games. The match was expected to be a close game but 2 goals from Eusébio and a goal from his Benfica team-mate António Simões gave Portugal the victory and the points to cement their place in the quarterfinals and send the Brazilians back home.
In the quarterfinals, Portugal came up against North Korea, who beat Italy 1-0 in the group stages. Portugal, who were now one of the favourites to lift the World Cup came into the game as clear favourites with the “New Pelé” in their side, but unexpectedly the Koreans took an early lead in the 1st minute and added to their tally with further goals in the 20th and 24th minute as the Portuguese looked like being eliminated from the tournament, however with Eusébio in their side no one could bet against them, the “Black Pearl” brought Portugal back into the game two minutes after the Koreans had scored their 3rd and then added another from the penalty sport two minutes before half-time. In the second, Eusébio continued his scoring with another goal that brought the teams level at 3-3 and on the hour, three minutes after scoring the equaliser, he stepped up to score a penalty to give Portugal the lead for the first time in the game. Ten minutes before full-time, his Benfica team-mate and strike- partner José Torres hit Portugal’s fifth and last goal as they made a remarkable come-back from 3-0 down in the first 25 minutes to beat the North Koreans 5-3 and set up a semi-final clash with hosts England at Wembley stadium.
At the fully packed Wembley stadium, England went ahead through Manchester United star Bobby Charlton on the half hour and added England’s second in the 79 minute, however three minutes later Eusébio, who was heavily marked throughout the game by Manchester United’s defensive midfielder Nobby Stiles, scored from the penalty spot but it was little too late for the Portuguese side as they went out to the evidential champions. Famously, Eusébio left the pitch in tears after Portugal were defeated by England and had to be consoled by the Portuguese coaching staff.
In the 3rd/4th place match, Eusébio added to the goals he scored in the early rounds to help Portugal beat the Soviet Union and won the Golden Boot after scoring 9 goals in the tournament.
He made such an impression on the British public in the 1966 World Cup that his figure was immediately added to Madame Tussaud’s waxwork collection and was voted the best player in the world by the English newspaper News of the World that same year.
One incident clearly sums up how much of a celebrity Eusébio had become in England after the World Cup.
“One year, I arrived alone in England and at the moment where I was preparing to pass customs, I arrived at the conclusion that I had forgotten my passport. I was a little worried and I soon started to sweat, when it came to give them an account of the situation, a policeman arrived in front of me and said ” Welcome, Eusébio”, and with that I passed through customs”.
The heroic Portuguese World Cup squad arrived in Lisbon and despite being in the early hours (3am) thousands of people waited to greet the national team. The following day, there was a parade in an open car from the square of Marquês de Pombal of Sao Bento were the players were to meet with Salazar. However it came to light that Eusébio had been offered a contract by Internazionle of Milan for around $3 million dollars. The contract was signed but again his exit from Benfica was halted. The reason was that the Italian FA had banned the transfer of foreign players into the Serie A, due to the national team’s poor showing in the 1966 World Cup, where they humiliatingly lost to North Korea. Eusébio continued his great form with Benfica as he helped the club to forget their disappointing 1965/66 season, where they lost the championship by one to their deadly rivals Sporting Lisbon by winning the title scoring 31 goals in 26 games.
In 1966, Eusébio also had the worst day of his life, when he was close to death during an accident with the electric water massage facility at Estadio da Luz, however his teammate Luciano died and Eusébio felt he was a lucky man escaping only with minor burns, the other Benfica players were rescued by Jaime Graça, the electrical engineer’s helper. He went onto to win the 1967 League title and then helped Benfica to their 4th European Cup final at Wembley against Manchester United in 1968. The Portuguese side lost 4-1 in extra-time but Eusébio could have clinched the winner in the last kick of the game, however he did have the consolation of helping Benfica win another league title while also winning the European Golden Boot for scoring 42 goals in one season.
The next season, he won the league again and scored the winner in extra-time in the Portuguese Cup final against Académica in a 2-1 win. In 1970, he won the Portuguese Cup and the following year, Benfica won the league again but lost 4-1 to Sporting in the final of the cup with Eusébio scoring Benfica’s solitary goal.
In 1971/72, he helped Benfica win the league and also beat Sporting 3-2 in the cup final with Eusébio netting a hat-trick, his last goal was in extra-time. After winning league titles in 1973 and also winning the European Golden Boot for a second time for scoring 40 goals in 28 games and winning the league title in 1974, the Black Panther left Benfica after several operations on his knees which had slowed him down and while also losing his place in the Portuguese national team for the first time since he made his debut in 1961.
After scoring 316 league goals in 294 matches for Benfica, he left the club in 1975 and went to the United States, where the likes of Johann Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer and Pele were helping to improve the image of the game in America.
The American Soccer League tried to acquire a big-name star to trump the NASL’s other moves. The club Rhode Island Oceaners announced that it was close to signing Eusébio, the ‘Black Pearl’. The club hoped that signing a legend like Eusébio would give Rhode Island a major leg up on its NASL competition in Hartford and Boston, particularly within the substantial New England Portuguese community. However, how the club could come up with the finances to sign the “Black Panther” was a problem. Explaining that the entire league would benefit from Eusébio’s presence, Rhode Island tried to get the other clubs to help subsidise the signing. The clubs owners, some of whom had so little knowledge of the world game that they had never even heard of Eusébio, balked at the price of his contract, and he eventually signed with NASL’s Bosten Minutemen. He played a few games for the club alongside his former Benfica team-mate António Simões before moving to Mexico to play for his former Benfica coach Fernando Riera at FC Monterrey, again Eusébio never settled even though he managed to win the Mexican Championship. The following season he moved to Canada and joined Toronto Metros-Croatia.
The Toronto club had gone through a trouble period before Eusébio had arrived, with the low attendances of around 6,000 the club had various financial problems and the club were about to fold when a group of Toronto based Croatian businessmen came to rescue the club and renamed them “Metros-Croatia”. With the help of Eusébio the team became one of the top teams in the NASL. After a poor start of the season with nine losses, the Metros-Croatia had an unprecedented run straight to the top of the NASL and winning the Championship, the clubs first and only title.
Eusébio played for a season at the club scoring goals in front of a crowd of only 5,000. Despite a successful season and a playoff run ending with the club lifting the Soccer Bowl championship in Seattle, the city did not respond. A little over 5,000 people turned out for the club’s home games at the Varsity Stadium in 76, and the championship win only increased attendance by 2,000 for the ’77 regular season. Over 25,000 came to Seattle’s Kingdome to watch the cup final, which found Toronto dismantling the Minnesota Kicks 3-0. Eusébio scored the first goal and his former Boston teammate and ex-Bayern Munich midfielder Wolfgang Suhnholz was the match’s most valuable player. Eusébio returned to Portugal for the 1976/77 season playing for 1st division club Beira-Mar making only 17 appearances for the club as they were relegated. He then returned to the US and signed for Las Vegas Quicksilver of the NASL but made played only 17 games as an injury ruined his season, he returned to Portugal and joined II Divisao de Honra club União de Tomar, where he again teamed up with his former Benfica team-mate António Simões for a short while before returning to America to join Amercian Soccer League team New Jersey Americans.
In one of his last ever games, Eusébio demonstrated in a flash of genius that after so many operations the ‘Black Panther’ still had what it took. The game was in 1978, he was playing for American Soccer League club New Jersey Americans against Indiana Daredevils. A ball was crossed from the right into the penalty area and Eusébio quickly turned and jumped to bicycle kick the ball into the net. His goal in the 3-2 defeat could have graced any national arena but in the ASL, he was almost forgotten. He later retired from playing in February 1979 after six operations on his left knee and one on his right. In 1992, a statue was unveiled at the entrance of Benfica’s Estadio da Luz, also a film was made of his life entitled Sua Majestade o Rei … His Majesty the King.
Full Name: Eusébio Ferreira Da Silva
Date of Birth: January 25, 1942
Birthplace: Lourenzo Marques, Mozambique
League Championships: 11 titles (60/61, 62/63, 63/64, 64/65, 66/67,
67/68, 68/69, 70/71, 71/72, 72/73 & 74/75
Portuguese Cup: 4 victories (61/62, 63/64, 68/69 & 71/72)
European Cup: 1 victory (61/62)
Internationals: 64 games/41 goals
Portuguese Army: 12 games/9 goals
European competition: 75 games/57 goals
Mexican National Championship: 75/76
NASL Championship (United States): 1976
World Cup Golden Boot winner: 1966 (9 goals)
European Player of the Year: 1965 runner-up 2 times in 1962 & 1966
European Golden Boot winner: 2 times 67/68 (42 goals) & 72/73 (40
Portuguese leading scorer: 7 times 63/64, 64/65, 65/66, 66/67, 67/68, 69/70 & 72/73
Early Career: As a junior player with “Brasileiros de Mafalala.”
First Official Game: For Sporting de Lourenço Marques, scoring three goals.
Signed for Benfica: 17th December, 1960
Final Game for Benfica: 9th October 1976: Testimonial game against Sporting at Estádio José Alvalade in honour of athlete Carlos Lopes. Benfica win 3-2.
European Cup Finalist: 1962/63 against Milan. 1964/65 against Inter. 1967/68
against Manchester United.
Top Scorer in the European Cup: 1964/65 (9 goals in 9 games). 1965/66 (7 goals in 5 games). 1967/68 (6 goals in 9 games).
Goals in the European Cup: 46 goals.
Hat-trick Record for Benfica in European Competitions: 5 goals against Olimpija (Yugoslavia) on 30th May 1970 at home in the Cup Winner’s Cup.
The highest goalscorer in the history of Portuguese football: 733 goals in 745 games.
The highest scorer in the history of the Portuguese 1st division: 319 goals in 313 games.
Highest scorer in the history of Benfica: 666 goals in 629 games. (1st team and reserves)
The highest scorer for Benfica in the Portuguese Cup: 97 goals in 60 games: Average 1.62
goals per game.
Hat-tricks: 63 (A national record)
Others teams: 5 in the U.E.F.A Selection, (the record number of appearances). 2 in a World Selection and 2 in the F.I.F.A Selection. (Scoring 10 goals during these appearances) During the Yugoslavia vs. The Rest of Europe on 23rd September 1964 scored 4 goals. Final result: Yugoslavia 2, Rest of Europe 7. Played one game for Real Madrid on 14th December 1972 in 2-1 win over CF Belenenses at Chamartin stadium in Madrid for Francisco “Paco” Gento testimonial and also played one game for Stoke City on 12th December 1973 for Gordon Banks testimonial in a 2-1 loss to Manchester United, scoring 1 goal at the Victoria stadium.
Awards: Best Player of the World Cup 1966. Best European Player of 1966- The Golden Ball
Award. Best Player in the World 1966 – News of the World. (British Newspaper).
Season Club League Games/Goals
1960/61 S.L. Benfica Division 1 1/1
1961/62 S.L. Benfica Division 1 17/12
1962/63 S.L. Benfica Division 1 24/23
1963/64 S.L. Benfica Division 1 20/28
1965/66 S.L. Benfica Division 1 23/25
1966/67 S.L. Benfica Division 1 26/31
1967/68 S.L .Benfica Division 1 24/42
1968/69 S.L. Benfica Division 1 21/10
1969/70 S.L. Benfica Division 1 22/21
1970/71 S.L. Benfica Division 1 22/19
1971/72 S.L. Benfica Division 1 24/19
1972/73 S.L. Benfica Division 1 28/40
1973/74 S.L. Benfica Division 1 21/16
1974/75 S.L. Benfica Division 1 9/2
1975/76 Bosten Minutemen NASL 8/2
1975/76 F.C. Monterrey Division 1(MEX) 10/1
1976/77 Toronto Metros-Croatia NASL 25/18
1976/77 Beira-Mar Division 1 17/3
1977/78 Las Vegas Quicksilver NASL 17/7
1977/78 União de Tomar II Divisao de Honra 13/3
1977/78 New Jersey Americans ASL 9/2