Marco Werman: The concept of citizenship, and how it's given, was quite different back in the 1940s when a boy named Eusebio was born in Mozambique in Southern Africa. Mozambique was a colony of Portugal back then, and that boy, Eusebio, would become a top soccer star, but not as a Mozambiquean. Lisbon was, for all intents and purposes, Eusebio's capital, so he played for Portugal and was its greatest athlete ever. And today Portugal mourns Eusebio, who died yesterday of a heart attack.
The World's soccer guy William Troop is here with me. Give us a sense of Eusebio's greatness. It really comes down to, I guess, the 1966 World Cup, right? It was his tournament.
William Troop: Although he didn't win it, which was the great, tragedy is too strong a word, but it was too bad for Eusebio. That was the peak of his career in many ways. He was the top scorer of that tournament with nine goals, and he went down in history for this one game specifically in which North Korea of all teams, was winning 3-0. They were total underdogs.
Troop: And Eusebio was in shock with the rest of his teammates. Then he came back. He scored four goals in that game to top North Korea and go on to the semi-finals of that tournament where they lost to the eventual champions of the world in 1966, which was England, the host.
Werman: Now in 1966, was Pele playing for Brazil at that point?
Troop: Yes, and one the teams that Eusebio and Portugal beat on the way to the semi-finals was Brazil, and Pele was part of that team. So soccer fans today talk a lot about who was the greatest player, Cristiano Rinaldo who is also Portuguese, or Leo Messi from Argentina. Well, Pele and Eusebio were the Cristiano Rinaldo and MesSi of their time. And during that tournament Pele said they became friends for life.
Werman: Now William, you and I were talking only recently about the state of racial abuse and epithets thrown around the soccer pit, especially in Europe. Did Eusebio take the brunt of any of that kind of thing when he was coming up as a player in Europe in the 60s?
Troop: Oh yeah, he did. I mean, he said several times in interviews that he was subjected to a lot of verbal abuse. But he also said that he thought black players should shrug it off, which is not, you know, what a lot of black players out there today would say. But he had this view that you should do your talking with your skills on the field.
Werman: One thing that really struck me in the obituaries about Eusebio, Portugal's strong man, Antonio Salazar, basically called him intangible cultural heritage, you know, a national treasure. And so that made Eusebio unable to leave Portugal and pursue a big salary somewhere else. It just struck me as such a contrast with the multi-million Euro salaries and trades of today. Almost seems quaint.
Troop: Yeah, and another quaint thing about it that goes right hand in hand with that is that Portugal claimed him as a country, but also one of Portugal's more historic teams, Benfica, claimed Eusebio as its icon. And so he played for 15 years for the same team, something that very few players do today because they can change teams and get more money somewhere else. He did leave, after the dictatorship of Salazar, and came to play here in the U.S. And in fact, he played here in Boston where he came back last September. I actually saw him. He was at Gillette Stadium where Portugal played Brazil. And Pele and Eusebio came to that game and went out and shook hands with all the players together. And I was just a few feet away, I saw that. And you could tell that Eusebio was not in great shape physically, but also you could tell that he was in his element. He really loved that.
Werman: And could you also tell that the young soccer players were clearly recognizing what he meant and what he symbolizes to the game?
Troop: Yes, and especially he and Pele shook the hand of Namar, who's one of the up and coming Brazilian players now, and you could see Namar and the other players just beaming at having the honor to meet these two guys.
Werman: The World's William Troop. Thanks a lot.
Troop: You're welcome.
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