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World bids farewell to soccer legend Eusebio

Sapa-AFP, Sapa-AP, Sapa

Fifa's president Sepp Blatter and Safa head Danny Jordaan have joined the world in mourning the passing of football great Eusebio.

A woman brings flowers to the Eusebio monument at Luz stadium in Lisbon. (Reuters)

The South African Football Association (Safa) has joined the world in mourning the passing away of Mozambican-born and Portugal international football great, Eusébio​ da Silva Ferrera who died of cardiac arrest on Sunday. He was 71.

"This is a massive loss for the game in the whole world. His exploits reverberated across the universe, especially after his 1966 showing where he helped Portugal to reach the semifinals," said Safa president Danny Jordaan.

Jordaan, who had a close relationship with the Portuguese forward during the 2010 World Cup hosted in South Africa, said Eusébio's football achievements helped many African players to make it big in professional and international leagues.

"Most African players wanted to emulate this football hero's footsteps. We have written to CAF [Confederation of African Football] requesting that during the opening Chan game between Bafana Bafana and Mozambique on Saturday, players wear black armbands in honour of this son of Africa and observe a minute of silence. That is a small way of remembering what this star did for the game," he added.

Eusébio, top scorer at the 1966 World Cup, was described in Portugal as an "eternal symbol" of the country's football heritage.

Three days of national mourning
The death of the charismatic striker, who was idolised throughout the Portuguese-speaking world and considered one of the game's greatest players, was confirmed by former club Benfica and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) on Sunday.

The Portuguese government declared three days of national mourning and many fans paid homage by visiting an iconic statue of him erected next to Benfica's Luz stadium, leaving flowers, scarves and other tributes.

Meanwhile, Manchester United paid tribute to Eusébio on Sunday, with a minute's applause prior to their FA Cup tie at home to Swansea City.

Players from both sides stood around the centre circle prior to kick-off at Old Trafford, with supporters bursting into applause before the stadium announcer had even finished announcing that a tribute would be observed.

Bobby Charlton, who played for United in that match, was present for the game with Swansea and he paid tribute to the man known as the "Black Panther".

'He was a true sportsman'
"Without doubt, Eusébio was one of the finest players I ever had the privilege to play against," Charlton said.

"Not only that, he was a true sportsman, as he proved in applauding [United goalkeeper] Alex Stepney for his save in the European Cup final.

"His goals record, for Benfica and overall, is incredible and stands the test of time.

"I met him on numerous occasions after our playing careers had finished and he always represented both his club and his country in exemplary fashion."

United's Portuguese winger Nani also expressed his sadness at Eusébio's passing, writing on Twitter: "You'll be forever in our hearts Eusébio. Rest in peace legend."

Eusébio, who scored 733 goals in 745 professional appearances, won the Ballon d'Or in 1965 and finished as the top scorer at the 1966 World Cup in England.

'Football has lost a legend'
Fifa president Sepp Blatter wrote on Twitter: "Football has lost a legend. But Eusebio's place among the greats will never be taken away. Eusebio was a football & FIFA ambassador. He'll be sorely missed. Rest in peace Black Panther."

While Uefa president Michel Platini, said: "Today football has lost one of the greatest players ever. On the field, Eusebio was a true legend, both in the colours of Portugal and Benfica. But also off it, he was a true ambassador for Portuguese football on the international stage. He was more than a footballer. A good and charming man, Eusebio will be sadly missed." – Sapa-AFP, Sapa-AP

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