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Portugal declares three-day mourning for Eusebio

Updated: 2014-01-06 10:51
( Xinhua)

LISBON -- Portugal declared three days of mourning for Portuguese football legend Eusebio, who died early Sunday due to a cardiac arrest.

"The country is officially mourning his death," President Anibal Cavaco Silva said. "The best way to pay tribute to Eusebio is by following his example, not only as an athlete but also as a human being."

"His talent brought joy for entire generations, even those who didn't live through the most glorious moments of his career," Cavaco Silva added.

The president also praised the former football player's "affability and humility". Eusebio was the top scorer at the World Cup finals in 1966 and scored over 700 competitive goals but the Mozambican-born star never came across as pretentious.

Eusebio was known as the "Black Panther", for his velocity and technique. He was born in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, when the country was still a Portuguese colony and came from humble origins to later become one of the world's top scorers.

He won the Ballon d'Or in 1965 and helped Portugal finish third in the World Cup in England. Playing for his longtime club Benfica, he won 11 league titles and the European Cup in 1962 and helped the club to three further European Cup finals.

After retiring, Eusebio was an assistant coach for Benfica and travelled as a soccer ambassador.

The country's Football Federation and his former club Benfica also responded to his death and referred to him as an "eternal symbol".

"Portugal is mourning. Eusebio, the King of Portugal's 1966 team and the eternal symbol of the country, national team and Benfica passed away," the statement read.

"The news caught us by surprise brutally, because there are men who should never go away," a Benfica statement read.

Eusebio's body was taken to the Luz stadium later on Sunday for fans to pay their last tributes. His body will remain at the stadium until Monday, according to local sports daily A Bola, and millions of people awaited the coffin's arrival, shouting "SLB" (Sport Lisbon & Benfica ) and "Eusebio". The national anthem was also played.

Fans left flowers and other tributes at his iconic statue which stands next to Benfica's Luz stadium and a one-minute silence was held before Sunday's Portuguese cup games.

Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho recalled Eusebio in a statement as a "football genius, an excellent athlete and a generous and solidary," adding that he was "an example of professionalism and determination".

FIFA President Blatter said "Football has lost a legend. Eusebio will always have a place among the very best. He was an ambassador of the game and of FIFA, and we will miss him. Rest in peace Black Panther."

Eusebio had been hospitalized several times since June 2012, when he suffered a cerebral vascular accident in Poland.

Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza also lamented Eusebio's death, saying it was a "shock" and that he was a figure who "transported the profound and rich history of Mozambique".

"Eusebio came here from time to time and worked with us. He always maintained his link with Mozambique. He is a very well known and respected figure in this country," Guebuza told Portugal's national broadcaster RTP.