Eusebio, Portugal’s Black Panther
Eusebio, nicknamed by the Portuguese as the Black Panther, was considered the third best football player of the 20th century by a UEFA pool.
One of the most shining stars of the Portuguese football is Eusebio, known as the Black Panther due to his unrivaled strength, speed and technique.
Eusebio was born in 1942 in Lourenço Marques, today’s Maputo – Mozambique’s capital – where he started playing football on the streets. His ability for the game brought him in 1960 to Sport Lisboa e Benfica that disputed him with Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Even though the Black Panther scored 3 goals in his first game, his talent was only recognized abroad two years later when he lead Benfica to its second European Champion Clubs’ Cup in a final disputed with Real Madrid. The final result was 5-3 for the Portuguese team and Eusebio scored 2 of the Benfica’s goals. By those days Eusebio shinned on a luxury constellation formed by names such as António Simões, Coluna, José Águas and Torres.
After being considered the best European Football player in 1965 by the France Football magazine that honored him with the Ballon d’Or, his ability to score, one of Eusebio’s most distinctive traces, was recognized with two European Golden Boot awards, first in 1968 and then in 1973. Moreover, Eusebio is one of the few players who scored over 1100 goals throughout the career. He was also the best scorer of the Portuguese championship for seven times.
As a Benfica player, the Black Panther won 11 Portuguese Championships, 5 Taças de Portugal and 5 Taças de Honra.
Eusebio and the Portuguese National Team
Between 1961 and 1973 Eusebio played 64 times for the Portuguese National Team, having scored 41 goals. Eusebio was at his highest at the 1966 World Championship when Portugal reached third place and he is considered the best player of the tournament as well as the best scorer. His performances took him up to a level reserved only for football gods such as Pelé or Maradona.
In Euro 2004, Eusebio returned to the National Team to inspire Portuguese players with his example. The strength of his personality and his influence on the players was visible throughout the tournament but was particularly visible on the memorable England vs. Portugal that the Portuguese won on the penalties. The images of Eusebio encouraging the Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo touched an entire country that was united around the National Team. Since then, Eusebio has been an ambassador of the Portuguese football.
During his career and even after his retirement the Black Panther was honored both in Portugal as abroad, having been considered the third best player of the 20th century on a FIFA pool. Benfica built him a statue at the stadium entrance and created the Eusebio Cup.
Due to Eusebio’s achievements he is one of the major Portuguese football references, cherished by all Portuguese, Benfica fans or not, acknowledge all around the world.