Derry City fans woke up yesterday morning to the news that Portuguese great Eusebio, had passed away at the age of 71.
Eusebio, whose full name was Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, was European Footballer of the Year in 1965 but won global acclaim a year later at the World Cup in England, where his nine goals helped Portugal reach the semi-finals.
He won 64 caps and scored 41 goals for Portugal, records that stood for almost two decades before being broken.
Eusebio was a European Cup winner with Benfica in 1962 and played in three other finals, including the loss to Manchester United at Wembley in 1968.
Eusebio helped Benfica to 11 Portugues championships and later served as an ‘ambassador’ for the club. He scored more than 300 league goals for the Lisbon outfit.
World Cups and European Cup finals were long behind him when he visited the Brandywell on September 13, 1989 as an ambassador for Benfuca, who had been drawn to face Jim McLaughlin’s treble winners in the European Cup.
Eusebio was greeted by rapturous applause when revaled before a packed Brandywell stadium, with the great man even taking part in the half time draw in a game which Benfica went on to win 2-1.
Benfica were managed by Sven Goran Erikkson at that time, but Eusebio was the man everyone wanted to see.
“He was a great man,” Martin Dunne recalled. “He was a gentleman when he came to the Brandywell. It was great to have a player like that at Derry and he was so approachable. He could have had all the security he wanted but he didn’t take any. He was just dandering around before the match and he would take photographs and sign autigraphs for anyone who wanted them. He seemed to get on well with Big Ugg when he met him. He was a gentleman that day, he really was.”
Another memory of Eusebio’s visit came from Charlies ‘Nucker’ Tierney, who was one of the first to meet the Benfica contigent on that memorable day in September.
”I got a call from Pat Durkan the night before the game and he asked me to have the ground open by nine the next morning because Benfica wanted to come in and train,” he recalled.
“I was a voluntray steward that day and sure enough they were there at nine on the dot, and Eusebio was with them. No one was allowed into the ground at all or anywhere near the changing rooms for obviosu reasons, but eusebio was very approachable. I met him in the car park when they arrived and we shook hands. It was one of the most historic days in Derry’s history and to have him there.”
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