Eusebio - the Portuguese great who once lit up Burnden Park

Former Portugal international Eusebio, who has passed away at the age of 71

Former Portugal international Eusebio, who has passed away at the age of 71

First published in Sport
Last updated
The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

PORTGUESE footballing legend Eusebio has passed away at the age of 71.

Widely considered to be one of the greatest footballers of all time, he scored an incredible 733 times in 745 professional games.

In a glittering playing career he won 64 caps for Portugal, scoring 41 goals, including nine at the 1966 World Cup in England.

He won the 1962 European Cup, 10 league championships and five domestic cup competitions in a 15-year career with Benfica and also played against Manchester United in the 1968 European Cup final.

Eusebio also turned out in a benefit game for Wanderers’ all-time leading appearance maker Eddie Hopkinson at Burnden Park in 1971, watched by nearly 17,000 supporters.

As part of an All Star XI he played alongside compatriot Simoes despite having been on club duty just a few days earlier.

The original date of the game, April 21, had to be delayed by a week to allow some of the players to compete in the European Cup.

Albert Howcroft, a former commercial manager and secretary of the supporters club, was secretary of the committee and played a part in getting Benfica — one of the giants of European football — to give their approval for their two stars to honour Hoppy, who was himself a respected former England international.

But it came at a price, as shown in documents Mr Howcroft kept as mementoes of that special occasion. A letter from the Lisbon club, granting permission for Eusebio and Simoes to play in the match and confirming the travel arrangements for the two players, their wives and Benfica manager Jimmy Hagan, requested the testimonial committee arrange £60,000 worth of insurance cover for each of the international duo.

A similar request today for a superstar — Barcelona’s Lionel Messi for instance — to guest in a one-off game would require insurance cover of around £100 million and could cost organisers between £75,000 and £100,000.

Mr Howcroft, who went on to work in the marketing department of the Football League, died in 2008 aged 85. Betty, his widow, recalled in an article with The Bolton News in 2009 being too busy helping with the catering to get to see Eusebio in action for a European XI, including Scotland legend Bertie Auld and Blackburn’s Fred Pickering, that beat Hopkinson’s Wanderers 6-4, but she did manage to get him to autograph a paper plate, which she still has among memorabilia from Hoppy’s big night.

“For Eusebio to come over to play in the testimonial was a great tribute to Eddie,” she said, acknowledging the respect for Hopkinson who died in 2004. “It obviously took a lot of hard work and some expense but it was a real feather in the committee’s cap to attract the two Benfica players and it was a memorable night at Burnden Park.”

Eusebio had been admitted to hospital several times over the past year for the treatment of heart and respiratory problems.

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