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On January 25, 1942, in a humble house in Lourenco Marques (the former name of Maputo), Elisa Anissabana gave birth to a boy. He was to prove the greatest footballer the African continent has ever produced. He was Eusebio da Silva Ferreira.

From a very young age, like so many in Mozambique, Eusebio was interested in little but kicking around a ball of rags, dribbling around his friends to score in goals under the coconut-trees of the city's slums.

His mother would warn him not to neglect his schoolwork, but to no avail. Eusebio cared for nothing but football. As an adolescent, he joined a club known as the Brazilians. Each player took on the name of a great of the Brazilian side: Eusebio was Pele.

Soon, the Mozambican Pele was asked to play for Sporting Lourenco Marques, a club affiliated to Sporting Lisbon. Amazingly, he turned them down; Eusebio wanted only to play for Desportivo, the affiliated club of Benfica, to play alongside his idol, Mario Coluna.

"My dream was to play for Desportivo and to wear that jersey," he said.

Eusebio asked Desporetivo to give him a chance, but, after two trials, the club's directors decided that he wasn't good enough. Eusebio wept, and decided to accept the Sporting offer.

The young forward quickly impressed with his technique, his strength and his shooting ability. He remained, like all the other players, an amateur, but sometimes the club president would slip him a couple of coins with which to buy a cinema ticket.

But as Eusebio's fame grew, Sporting offered him a desk-job with a local company with a salary of £4 a month. It didn't last long: Eusebio was not built to sit behind a desk and he knew it. After six months, he quit.

"I wanted to play soccer for a living,” he explained. “I wanted to devote my life to the game. My friends were always telling me that if I wanted to do so, I should move to Lisbon where the big money was."

And in December 1960, the news reached Lourenco Marques that Sporting wanted the 18-year-old for trials at the Alvalade.

Eusebio was understandably delighted, but then he saw how upset his mother was by the prospect of his departure.

"I will not leave Lourenco Marques without a real contract,” he vowed. “I'm not interest in experiences or adventures."

Sporting Lisbon hesitated. After all, there were plenty of African kids who had shown similar strength and shooting ability. And that was when Benfica pounced, and offered a Eusebio a contract. For a fee of £300, the forward left his homeland and his mother for Benfica.

Eusebio arrived at Lisbon airport at dawn on a cold December morning. Benfica wanted to keep the whole operation secret to prevent Sporting making any late bid, and spirited the player away in a taxi to a house owned by the club, where one of the out-of-town players lived.

There he signed the contract, and was greeted by his compatriot Mario Coluna, who would become his guide and his protector.

But then the problems started. Sporting Lourenco Marques refused to release Eusebio's registration as he was still a minor according to Portuguese law, and both Sporting and Porto tried to snatch him from the Eagles' Nest.

The situation became increasingly bizarre, as Benfica began protracted negotiations in Mozambique, referring, for security reasons, to Eusebio as 'Ruth' in all communication. But Eusebio's mother kept her word, and, for all Sporting's offers, she allowed Benfica to sign the contract with her son.

Sporting Lourenco Marques were incredulous. "We made Eusebio a man,” an official said. “He came here bare-footed, badly fed and badly dressed. We gave him everything and now they do this to us."

But Eusebio was at Benfica, and soon made his debut, as he detailed in a letter back to his family.

"I made my debut in a friendly game,” it read. “It was Benfica's last game before going to Berne where they're playing the European Champions' Cup final. I was so nervous! But I was lucky. We won 4-2 and I scored three goals.”

He never looked back, climbing to the top rung of Portuguese and international football. In total, the Black Panther scored 733 goals in official matches, was twice the winner of the European Golden Boot, and seven times finished as Portugal's leading marksman.

With Benfica he won the European Cup in 1962, 11 championship titles, and four Portuguese Cups in what were the true golden years of the Lisbon eagles.

He played 64 times for his country, reaching his peak in the 1966 World Cup finals, in which he fascinated England with the beauty and power of the dribbles and strikes.

Eusebio was the tournament's top scorer with nine goals as he led Portugal to a historic third place. He was rampant in the group stages as Portugal beat Hungary and Bulgaria, and, critically Brazil. Portugal's 3-1 win will always be remembered for Morais' disgraceful double foul on Pele that led the Brazilian to vow never to play in another World Cup, but Eusebio was simply unstoppable in that game.

It was his cross that produced the first for Simoes, he headed the second after Torres had knocked back Coluna's cross and then thrashed a third to decide the game with five minutes remaining.

The quarter-final was an extraordinary game, as Portugal somehow found themselves 3-0 down to the minnows of North Korea at the midpoint of the first half. But Eusebio was there to save Portuguese blushes. He raced on to Simoes' through-ball to pull one back on 28 minutes, and then crashed home a penalty three minutes before half-time after Torres had been brought down in the box.

A trademark burst of pace brought Eusebio's hat-trick and the equaliser, and a similarly mesmeric dart in from the left brought anther penalty and a fourth. Augusto added a fifth, but it was Eusebio who had beaten the North Koreans.

In the semi-final, however, Eusebio was effectively marked out of contention by Nobby Stiles, although he did convert another penalty in a 2-1 defeat. Yet another penalty followed in the third-place play-off, as Portugal beat the USSR 2-1.

With 41 international goals he still is the Portugal national team's all-time top-scorer, yet the always modest and friendly Eusebio refuses see himself as one of the world's greatest ever players.

"I cannot judge if I was one of the best players ever,” he says. “It's the critics' and journalists' opinion and I respect it. I like Garrincha, Beckenbauer, Bobby Charlton, Yashin, Banks and others, but for me the two best players of all times were Pele and Di Stefano."

Even before the 1966 World Cup, Eusebio was already considered a fabulous player. He became famous in the 1962 European Cup final when he scored twice in Amsterdam as Benfica defeated the mighty Real Madrid, five times European champions.

The British Daily Mail was in no doubt that the final marked a passing on of the mantle of Europe's greatest player. "On Wednesday, at 9.20pm, Ferenc Puskas, the 35-year-old Real Madrid star gave his shirt to a Mozambican young man of 20,” it said.

“The old champion handed his position and its symbolic crown to Eusebio. The tremendous speed and strength of this young player along with his amazing skill make of him, perhaps, the best European player in his position."

In 1964, Juventus offered Eusebio a lucrative contract worth £50,000 a year, but Eusebio was seen as being so important to the Portugal that the dictator Antonio Salazar refused to let him go. He was ordered to join the army, and allowed to travel abroad only if he was playing football with Benfica or the Portugal national team.

Democracy arrived in Portugal in 1974, and Eusebio took the opportunity to leave for the USA. His American adventure was an unhappy none, though, and he immediately returned, offering his services once again to Benfica.

Knowing about his history of knee complaints – seven operations in total, Benfica decided to make Eusebio undergo a strenuous medical. He refused, and instead joined Beira Mar.

A string of lesser clubs followed, before he eventually retired in 1979, the greatest footballer Portugal has ever known.
 

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I hope you guys understand that Eusebio is an overrated sack. He is hyped up by the Benfica loving media to ensure that Portugal's greatest player is from their club.

At least that's what a Portista told me.;)
 

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i believe you can buy the video from Soccer.com, or bigsoccer.com. im 100% its on one of those sites.

great post by the way. an interesting read
 

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great post Rijkaard!!!

guys, if anyone wants to purchase videos of Portuguese National games from the past and present, there is a guy that I know that has everything we need. His email is [email protected]...

I purchased some of the '66 World Cup games from him and the Euro 2000 England game also...

If your a portuguese soccer history buff like me, this guy helps us out alot...

He also had a copy of the Porto v. Munique Champions League game...
 

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I found this:

"He was born to shine shoes, sell peanuts or pick pockets. As a child they called him 'Niguem' - no one, nobody. Son of a widowed mother, he played soccer from dawn to dusk with his many brothers in the empty lots of the shantytowns.

"He set foot on the field, running as only someone with police or poverty nipping at his heels can run. That is how he became champion of Europe at the age of twenty; sprinting in zig zags. They called him 'The Panther'.

"In the 1966 World Cup, his attacks left adversaries scattered on the ground, and his goals from impossible angles set off never-ending ovations.

"Portugal's best player ever was an African from Mozambique. Eusebio: long legs, dangling arms, sad eyes."


Eduadro Galeano, Uruguayan poet.
 
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