Lisbon - Tens of thousands of people have turned out in the rain on Monday to say a
final farewell to Portuguese football legend Eusebio, who grew up in
grinding African poverty to become one of the world's greatest players.
lined the streets of Lisbon and applauded as the black hearse carrying
Eusebio's coffin, drapped in the red and white colours of his club
Benfica, passed by in a funeral cortege broadcast live on TV
about 10 000 mourners applauded and cheered as six pall-bearers carried
the coffin and placed it on a golden plinth in the centre of the pitch
at Benfica's "Stadium of Light".
The coffin remained on the plinth
for only a few minutes before it was carried around the stadium in the
hearse as Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli's "Con te partiro" was played
Mourners, many in tears, threw red and white
Benfica scarves on the hearse and waved red and green Portuguese flags
as it passed by, crying out: "Eusebio, Eusebio".
"Eusebio was out
of this world like (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi. He will be
Benfica's eternal myth," said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus.
Fans left flowers, handmade posters and Benfica scarves at a statue of the player that sits outside the stadium.
flew at half mast across Lisbon with the Portuguese government
decreeing three days of mourning for Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, who died
of a heart attack early Sunday aged 71.
"Portugal has today lost
one of its most beloved sons, Eusebio da Silva Ferreira. The country
mourns his death," President Anibal Cavaco Silva had said.
Silva and Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho both attended the funeral
mass held in the Seminary Church near the stadium, which was broadcast
live on Portuguese television.
Eusebio will be buried at the nearby Lumiar cemetary after the mass.
into poverty in Africa, Eusebio scored 733 goals in 745 matches and
rivalled all-time greats including Pele, Alfredo Di Stefano and Bobby
"I was the best player in the world, top scorer in the
world and Europe. I did everything, except win a World Cup," Eusebio
said in a interview in 2011, recalling his tears after Portugal's loss
in the 1966 World Cup semi-final to England.
From humble origins
in the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique, Eusebio was to emerge as
one of the world's most feared strikers, combining panther-like pace
with a ferocious shooting ability.
Born in 1942, the poor boy
from Maputo rose to prominence in Mozambique football circles as a
teenager through his performances for Sporting Lourenco Marques.
his exceptional technique, strength and goal-scoring record, it was not
long before word of Eusebio's prowess soon filtered back to Portugal
and he joined Benfica.
In an early game for Benfica he outshone
Pele in a friendly against Santos and in 1962 he scored the crucial
goals in a 5-3 victory over Real Madrid in the European Cup final.
Madrid's legendary Hungarian Ferenc Puskas symbolically handed his
jersey to Eusebio after the match, the message was clear -- the torch
had passed, and in 1965 Eusebio was awarded the Ballon d'Or.
the Brazilian widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time,
took to his Twitter account to tell the world: "I cry for the death of
my brother Eusebio. We became friends during the 1966 World Cup in
Pele published a photo of the two men together when Portugal beat Brazil 3-1 that year, with Eusebio scoring two of the goals.
While Eusebio excelled with Benfica in Europe, it was his exploits at the 1966 World Cup for which he will be best remembered.
nine goals in England propelled Portugal to a third-place finish, and a
succession of opposing teams simply had no answer to the power and pace
of his play.
In the quarter-finals Eusebio was unstoppable,
pulling off a one-man rescue act after Portugal went 3-0 down against
North Korea after just 20 minutes.
The Koreans were blown away by a four-goal display from Eusebio as the Portuguese won 5-3.
scored his ninth of the tournament in the third-place play-off win over
the Soviet Union. He finished his 64-cap career having accumulated 41
goals for Portugal.
He also earned European football's Golden
Boot award twice and was Portugal's top scorer every season between 1964
He helped Benfica to 11 league championships and five
Married with two daughters, in retirement he became an ambassador for Benfica and the Portuguese football federation.