Jan 6, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT
There’s no counting how many times Portuguese soccer fans have sang for Eusebio, but perhaps no songs have carried the emotional weight of Monday’s singing for their country’s first footballing hero at Luz Stadium.
On a day tens of thousands of fans lined the streets of Lisbon to cheer his body as it passed in a hearse, thousands more ascended the stairs of Benfica’s home stadium to sing and cheer for him as his coffin was marched into Luz Stadium and placed at midfield.
It’s yet another sign of the special place the beautiful game and its heroes hold in the hearts of supporters. As America and the soccer world reacted to his passing on Sunday, we were reminded how special his character was in addition to his on-field exploits.
At the Luz stadium, or Stadium of Light, Eusebio’s coffin was carried from the hearse and placed on a golden plinth in the centre of the pitch.
It remained there for only five minutes or so before being returned to the car for a procession round the stadium.
Fans draped scarves over the statue of the player that stands outside the stadium.
The stadium, opened in 2003, replaced the 120,000-seat Stadium of Light where Eusebio dazzled for Benfica, helping them to numerous honours.
“For me, he is simply the creator of football,” said 24-year-old fan Luis Marques.
One banner left by the Eusebio statue read: “I haven’t come to say goodbye, but to say thank you.”
Eusebio scored 41 goals n 64 international appearances for Portugal and scored 317 goals in 301 matches for Benfica, where he spent the majority of his career before finishing up in the NASL and MISL of North America. He won multiple Golden Boots and a World Footballer of the Year award in addition to 10 league championships and five cups at Benfica.
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