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LONDON AND LISBON, 16 FEBRUARY 2004
Eusebio: 'Cried for a Long Time'
In advance of Wednesday's England-Portugal friendly, the Times (U.K.) speaks with Eusebio about the 1966 World Cup finals and his own struggles under the thumb of Portuguese A bad dictatordictator António de Oliveira Salazar (1889–1970) (Gabriele Marcotti, "Eusebio: The Agony of '66"). First, he mentions lingering bitterness that Portugal's semifinal against England in 1966 was suddenly relocated from Liverpool to Wembley Stadium; Portugal lost 2–1 before 95,000.

I looked up to God in heaven and screamed at the top of my lungs: "What have we done to deserve this?" There was no reply. I knew the answer. We were poor and small. England was rich and powerful and they were the host nation. And then I cried. I cried for a long time. Had we played in Liverpool, like we were supposed to, we would have won that game and reached the final. There is no question about it.

Eusebio, who was born in Mozambique, notes that his movements as a footballer, in contrast to today's post-Bosman world, were limited. The game was segregated, and Salazar barred moves abroad from Benfica.

Juventus came for me when I was 19. After the World Cup, Inter made a big offer, one which would have made me the highest-paid player in the world. And yet I was not allowed to move. Why? Salazar was not my father and he certainly was not my mother. What gave him the right? The truth was that he was my slavemaster, just as he was the slavemaster of the entire country.

  • Gyôr, Hungary, and Guimaraes, Portugal | 4 February 2004 . . . That Miklós Fehér died as he did, during a live television match for Fehér's jersey is displayed at his funeral procession in Gyôrhis team, Benfica, recalled the similar-seeming death of Marc Vivien Foé the previous summer in FIFA's Confederations Cup. Fehér, 24, who had played 25 times for Hungary's national team, died on 25 January after his heart "simply stopped beating" (Rob Hughes, "A Death Brings Fear to the Field," International Herald Tribune). "Feher, by all accounts a placid and pleasant man," Hughes writes, "had come on the field as a late substitute. The seconds were ticking away when Feher was shown the yellow card by the referee. Feher smiled, then bent over with his hands on his knees. He tumbled back." Fehér's death, without any other explanation, also becomes linked with the intense physical demands placed on professional footballers and related abuses. Hughes continues:

    [T]here is, surely, cause for someone in overall authority to offer more than the condolences that came rapidly enough from FIFA. . . . With the interminable inquiry into supplements used by Italian clubs such as Juventus [see gleanings entry for 19 December 2003], with the highly suspect coincidence of unexplained deaths of several soccer professionals in Romania, there must be urgency among the medical committees and the administrators who increase the number of tournaments and the profits of the global game.

  • Lisbon | 3 November 2003 . . . A 65,000-seat "cathedral of football," Estádio da Luz, the home field for Benfica and the venue for the Click for more information on Estádio da Luzfinal of the 2004 European Championships, has officially opened. Given boondoggles over financing and political corruption, the Times (London) terms the stunning structure's completion a "minor miracle." Damon Lavelle, principal of stadium architects HKO Sport, recalls meeting about the stadium's final design:

    I wanted the arch on the roof to be much higher but they were worried about planes. I set up a meeting to fight my case and they came over. Unfortunately, the date was September 11, 2001.

    Now the only problem is paying for it. A £60 million debt needs to be retired, an issue for presidential elections at Benfica on 7 November. | back to top