Funeral ceremonies for football legend Eusebio have been held in Portugal amid three days of official mourning. The Mozambique-born striker died of a cardio-pulmonary arrest at the age of 71.
Nicknamed the 'Black Panther,' Eusebio da Silva Ferreira was one of the most feared football strikers in the 1960s. He died on Sunday of a cardio-pulmonary arrest after suffering ill-health for some years.
The funeral procession in Eusebio's adopted country of Portugal began last night at the stadium of the player's former club, Benfica's Estadio da Luz (Stadium of Light) in Lisbon. Fans placed flowers, handmade posters and scarves with the club's red and white colors.
In accord with his wishes, Eusebio's coffin was carried around the stadium, so fans could pay a final tribute before the funeral mass at the Seminary Church near the stadium on Monday afternoon. The footballer was laid to rest at the Lumiar cemetery in the city's northern suburbs.
The '66 World Cup and Pele
Eusebio made his name at the 1966 World Cup when he scored nine goals which took Portugal to a third-place finish in the competition. Eusebio became friends with Pele, the Brazilian widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time, during that competition in England: "I cry for the death of my brother Eusebio," Pele wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday. He published a photo of the two men together when Portugal beat Brazil 3-1 in 1966, with Eusebio scoring two of the goals.
Amid three days of official mourning announced by Portugal's government, flags flew at half mast and newspapers dedicated pages of tributes to the player. The front page of Diario de Noticias waved "Goodbye to the legend," while sports daily O Jogo titled a photo of the player "Eternal." President Anibal Cavaco Silva said "Portugal has today lost one of its most beloved sons."
The striker made his name at club level with Benfica, winning 11 league titles during his 15 years with the club and two Golden Boot awards as Europe's leading goalscorer. He scored a total of 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal.
Married with two daughters, in retirement Eusebio became an ambassador for Benfica and the Portuguese football federation.
jm/tj,se (AFP, Reuters)