Michel Platini will present the prestigious UEFA President's Award for 2009 to celebrated striker Eusébio ahead of SL Benfica's UEFA Europa League match against Hertha BSC Berlin.
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Eusébio, the Portugal striking legend of the 1960s and 1970s whose skills, speed and goalscoring prowess earned him the nickname The Black Panther, is being honoured for his invaluable contribution to football with the UEFA President's Award for 2009.
The Mozambique-born centre-forward, who made his name with SL Benfica and whose goals took Portugal to a FIFA World Cup semi-final in 1966, is to receive the award from UEFA president Michel Platini before Tuesday's UEFA Europa League round of 32 second-leg match between Benfica and Hertha BSC Berlin at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica – in front of the fans who adored him for a decade and a half. The presentation will take place on the pitch at the famous Lisbon stadium at 16.50 local time.
Eusébio is the latest football great to collect the UEFA President's Award, which recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities. On 18 February 2008, Michel Platini presented his first UEFA President's Award to Alfredo di Stéfano, the attacking ace from Real Madrid CF's all-conquering side of the 1950s and early 1960s. On 29 April 2009 he honoured another illustrious name, Manchester United FC and England hero Sir Bobby Charlton, with the award. The accolade, first introduced by UEFA in 1998, focuses particularly on the true protagonists – the players – who have advanced the game's development and success.
Now, Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, born on 25 January 1942, becomes the third recipient in acknowledgement of a fantastic career. He scored 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal, and was leading tournament scorer with nine strikes at the 1966 World Cup in England – taking his country to the last four before the Portuguese bowed out at Wembley against the hosts and eventual trophy winners. He was voted European Footballer of the Year in 1965 and twice won the Golden Boot, in 1968 and 1973.
A 15-year spell with Benfica between 1960 and 1975 brought him cult status with the Lisbon club's supporters, as well as eleven domestic titles and five cups, and he also starred for Sporting Clube de Lourenço Marques in Mozambique and at various North American, Mexican and Portuguese teams either side of his stay with Benfica. In all, the records show that he scored 727 goals in 715 matches wearing the Benfica shirt.
"It is a great privilege for me to present the UEFA President's Award to Eusébio, one of the all-time greatest goalscorers and ambassadors for the game of football," said Michel Platini. "Eusébio is a giant in our sport and the values such as self-abnegation, fair play and respect, conveyed throughout his successful career, both on and off the pitch, have made him a good example for future generations."
In 1968 Eusébio earned plaudits for a particularly fine gesture of sportsmanship in Benfica's European Champion Clubs' Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley. In the closing stages of normal time, with the score at 1-1 – United went on to win 4-1 – he bore down on United goalkeeper Alex Stepney, only to see the keeper make a brilliant point-blank save from a blistering shot. Eusébio forgot his disappointment to applaud and pat Stepney on the back for his efforts.
"It is a great honour for me to receive this award from the UEFA President in my stadium, in front of the Benfica supporters," said Eusébio. "All of the successes achieved throughout my career and contacts with the fans have made me aware of my responsibility to act as an example in the world of football. Even away from the pitch, I commit every day of my life to promoting the greatest sport on earth."
European club glory also came to Eusébio. He fired Benfica to a memorable triumph in the 1961/62 European Cup – the forerunner of today's UEFA Champions League – scoring twice in a 5-3 final victory over Real Madrid CF in Amsterdam, a performance which helped to launch his career. In total, he registered 59 goals in 78 games in UEFA club competitions.