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Eusébio 'proud' to reach 70th birthday

Published: Wednesday 25 January 2012, 16.45CET
"I am proud to reach this age," said Eusébio on turning 70, a milestone he hopes SL Benfica can mark by winning the title this season: "That would be the best gift I could have."
Eusébio 'proud' to reach 70th birthday
Eusébio is best known for his exploits with Benfica and Portugal ©AFP
Published: Wednesday 25 January 2012, 16.45CET

Eusébio 'proud' to reach 70th birthday

"I am proud to reach this age," said Eusébio on turning 70, a milestone he hopes SL Benfica can mark by winning the title this season: "That would be the best gift I could have."

Eusébio, the former SL Benfica and Portugal centre-forward regarded as one of the greatest talents to have played the game, is celebrating his 70th birthday today.

Born in Mozambique, he moved to Portugal as a 19-year-old to join the Eagles, having initially been lined up to sign for Lisbon rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal. Within a year, he had scored two cannonball goals in Benfica's 5-3 victory against Real Madrid CF in the 1962 European Champion Clubs' Cup final in Amsterdam.

Nicknamed the 'Black Panther' for his speed and the fear he instilled in opponents, Eusébio inspired his team to four European Cup finals, the last in 1968 when they lost in extra time to Manchester United FC at Wembley. In total, he helped Benfica win the league 11 times and the cup on five occasions. He was European Footballer of the Year in 1965; top scorer with nine goals at the 1966 FIFA World Cup where Portugal finished third; and scorer of 41 goals in 64 internationals.

Eusébio, who recovered from a bout of pneumonia which required a stay in hospital late last year, has invited all of his team-mates from his 15-season stint with Benfica to a party at the Estádio da Luz's Catedral da Cerveja (Beers Cathedral) restaurant.

"I never thought I would make it to 70, but thank God here I am and I hope to spend many more years in shape," said Eusébio, who retired in 1978 following the last of several spells playing in North America. "My health is impeccable now. I am happy because I did some tests two weeks ago and my doctor told me I could even have a glass of wine now and then, as long as I don't abuse it."

In February 2010 Eusébio received the UEFA President's Award from Michel Platini before Benfica's UEFA Europa League round of 32 game against Hertha BSC Berlin. He said of the award: "I am very touched. I am a person of few words, but I am honoured to collect this."

Benfica won 4-0 that day and the septuagenarian has high hopes for the current squad, who are two points clear of FC Porto at the top of the Portuguese Liga and unbeaten in the top flight since 10 April. "I hope Benfica are crowned champions this year, I am proud to reach this age and that would be the best gift I could have."

Last updated: 26/01/12 0.43CET

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