Skip to content

Eusebio remembered in America as great teammate, player, friend

Jan 5, 2014, 3:50 PM EDT

Stallions 79-80 Home Eusebio1

To be remembered as a great friend is the mark of a life well-lived, and Eusebio da Silva Ferreira’s time in North America left an indelible imprint on his teammates.

Long after he had driven Portugal to third place at the 1966 World Cup, after his World Footballer of the Year Award and multiple Golden Boots had been handed out, the Portuguese legend came to North America to play, spending time in Buffalo, Boston and Toronto amongst other stops.

On the day of his passing at 71, several of his teammates and competitors reflected on what it was like to play against and alongside the international superstar whose free kick lifted the Toronto Metros-Croatia to the 1976 Soccer Bowl title.

Eusebio is being remembered a world-class competitor, a humble man and a great teammate, someone it was an honor to know and play alongside. Argentine defender Francisco Estes played against Eusebio in the NASL and was teammates with him on the Buffalo Stallions of the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1979-80.

“You like playing basketball, you want to be around Michael Jordan,” Estes said. “At this moment, you want to be around Messi or Neymar. It was a dream come true to be in the same locker room, practicing every day with Eusebio. A dream come true.”

Jim May played both against and with Eusebio in a long career that began with the Rochester Lancers of the NASL and moved onto the Stallions, where he was an All-Star.

May credits Eusebio as a progenitor of what American soccer has become, that he carried himself as an ambassador of the game and understood the duties that came with such a position, that the decision to play here along with Pele and other greats could kickstart the game in the United States.

“The only reason I got to play is the rule in the NASL was that two Americans had to be on the field,” May said. “I was lucky. It was about good fortune. When they did the George Best special, I was telling my son what it was like to play against him. You take him, Eusebio, Pele… and to me, that’s three of the best.

“You look at Eusebio and talk about his playing in the United States and you think about it: NBC just bought all the rights and you can see every game in the world. I never thought I’d be alive to see that.”

Jim Sinclair became the captain of the Stallions and was emotional in reflecting on his late friend. The former junior Scotland player was MISL rookie of the year in 1979-80.

“Gentleman, as a person,” Sinclair said of Eusebio. “It’s a great loss to society, not just to the football world. He was a special person in my heart. I have nothing but fantastic memories of the man.”

source:

Eusebio and Pele during a Boston Minutemen/New York Cosmos game in the 1975 season (NASLjerseys.com).

By the time Eusebio came to Buffalo, he was not only a veteran of top tier football, but a veteran of surgery. After spending 1975 split between the Boston Minutemen of the NASL and Monterrey, he scored 18 times in 25 games for Toronto in the NASL. Yet he played in less than 50 games between then and 1979, when he arrived in Western New York.

Eusebio played in just five games over a season with the Stallions, but despite his rough knees, he’s remembered as hard worker who never rested as a teammate.

“It’s quite amazing that at the end of his career, he was almost the cheerleader of the team, always encouraging people, never negative, never criticizing,” said Sinclair, who said Eusebio taught him how to treat people. “He was such a leader. He taught his own teammates that none was bigger than the team. He could be doing whatever he wanted to do, but he was there and encouraging.”

Pat Occhiuto was a rookie out of Fredonia State when he walked onto the Buffalo Stallions roster with Eusebio.

“He came to practice every day, even though his legs weren’t what they used to be, and he worked harder than anyone,” Occhiuto said. “A real teacher, he kinda took me under his wing. We spent a lot of time after soccer, some nights at Mulligan’s (Brick Bar in Buffalo), just talking about soccer, Pele and his experiences. Real good guy. I’m sad to hear he’s passed away.”

When Eusebio left the United States in 1980, Occhiuto took his jersey number No. 13 in honor of the player and his mentorship.

Sinclair was given the physical jersey.

source:

May and Escos with the Stallions in 1979-80 (nasljerseys.com).

“Eusebio’s first point in indoor soccer, I scored the goal, and I didn’t score that many,” Sinclair joked. “That made it more special. I’m very fortunate to have the great man’s Buffalo Stallions jersey as a souvenir. It’s special to me, very very special in my heart.”

May remembers Eusebio not just for his skill, but for his lack of arrogance.

“He could hit a ball from everywhere,” said May, who went on to become the general manager of the Buffalo Blizzard. “Great player, that’s obvious, but down to earth, good guy, not egotistical. He could’ve been that guy, but he wasn’t.”

Rochester Rhinos team president Pat Ercoli was a member of the Toronto Metros-Croatia during their stunning run to the 1976 Soccer Bowl, and remembers Eusebio’s heroics fondly.

“I will never forget his free kick in the NASL final,” Ercoli said. “When he arrived in Toronto there was concern that he may not be able to contribute much because he had  several operations on his knees at the time, but he showed that although he didn’t have the speed he once possessed as a young man, he still possessed the skill and precision of an artist with every pass and every kick.

“Not only did he help Toronto win their first and only NASL Title, but helped many of us rekindle our passion, he was a true leader.”

Eusebio is survived by his wife, Flora, two daughters and several grandchildren. Before his funeral mass at a Seminary Church near Benfica’s stadium, his coffin will be carried around the Luiz Stadium, where fans can pay their respect.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS transfers: Didier Drogba mulling move, Andrea Pirlo “received offer”

    May 25, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    article-1202950-05D61EA7000005DC-689_468x357 Reuters

    MLS is reportedly pursing the signatures of Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba.

  2. Serie A roundup: Fiorentina qualify for Europa League, Sampdoria fall short

    May 24, 2015, 11:32 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-FIORENTINA-TRAINING Getty Images

    Roundup of Serie A’s final Sunday of the 2014-15 campaign.

  3. MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Orlando City SC

    May 24, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT

    Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes Getty Images

    Final: San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Orlando City SC

  4. West Brom manager Tony Pulis unsure of his team’s possible sale

    May 24, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Pulis on chairman Jeremy Peace selling West Brom: “I think he wants to get an investor in or someone who can financially take the club onto another level.”

  5. WATCH: Crystal Palace’s top-10 finish “unbelievable”, says Pardew

    May 24, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace FC Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace FC

    Alan Pardew has seen Crystal Palace rise to snag a 10th place Premier League finish.

  6. Manuel Pellegrini on speculation of his firing: “I never had any doubt all season”

    May 24, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City FC Getty Images

    Manchester City ended its Premier League season in second place, and manager Manuel Pellegrini is optimistic about his job safety.

  7. Championship playoff final preview: Middlesbrough and Norwich eye Premier League dream

    May 24, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    NorwichMiddlesbrough Getty Images

    With 90 minutes at Wembley to prove they’re worthy of the Premier League, the third and fourth place finishers in the Championship do battle with promotion on the line.

  8. Premier League final day roundup: 2014-15 season finishes with a flourish

    May 24, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    In case you missed anything, here’s what happened on the final day of the PL season.

  9. Report: Schalke has fired Roberto Di Matteo after failing to earn Champions League play

    May 24, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    DiMatteo Getty Images

    The club won just three of its final 14 matches, nosediving out of a Champions League position and leaving the manager without a job.

  10. Newcastle’s owner gives rare interview: “From this day forward we will be making our own luck.”

    May 24, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    Newcastle United's English owner Mike Ashley (L) smiles with managing director Lee Charnley (R) as he waits for the kick off in the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and West Ham United at St James Park, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, north east England on May 24, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR LIVE SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS.        (Photo credit should read Ian MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    This summer will be key, especially if Middlesbrough brings another set of Northeast Derbies to the Premier League. What’s next for Newcastle?

  11. VIDEO: Arsene Wenger pleased after big season-ending win

    May 24, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    Wenger Getty Images

    Arsenal finished the season in third place and put on a good showing in their final match of the season.

  12. Brendan Rodgers takes “full responsibility” for Liverpool’s season-ending disaster

    May 24, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    The Liverpool manager knows he could have hurt his position today with a 6-1 thumping at the hands of Stoke City on the season’s final day.

  13. VIDEO: John Terry lifts Premier League title as Chelsea’s celebrations begin

    May 24, 2015, 1:03 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The Blues hoist the trophy in front of their own fans in west London.

  14. ‘Exhausted’ Bruce after Hull relegation: “My future is for others to decide”

    May 24, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Manchester United at KC Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Hull, England. Getty Images

    Hull spent on Abel Hernandez and others in a relatively splashy summer, but still sink into the second tier.

  15. Newcastle’s Carver: “I want a summer where I can bring in the players I want”

    May 24, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT

    Newcastle United's Argentinian midfielder Jonas Gutierrez (R) celebrates after he scores with Newcastle United's English head coach John Carver (L) during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and West Ham United at St James Park, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, north east England on May 24, 2015. Newcastle won the game 2-0 to avoid relegation. AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR LIVE SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS.        (Photo credit should read Ian MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A resilient John Carver, buoyed by Newcastle United avoiding the drop, has reiterated his desire to lead the Premier League club.

Featured video

Chelsea lift the 2014-15 PL trophy