Tributes flood in ahead of Eusebio funeral Monday

Tributes flood in ahead of Eusebio funeral Monday

LISBON- Tens of thousands of people are expected to pay their respects at the funeral Monday of Portuguese footballing great Eusebio, whose death has been met by worldwide tributes.

Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, who died of cardio-pulmonary arrest early on Sunday aged 71, reigned over Portuguese football in the 1960s, bringing glory to both his club Benfica and his country.

His death led to an outpouring of tributes, with the Portuguese government decreeing three days of mourning and flags in Lisbon to fly at half mast ahead of his funeral.

"Football has lost a legend," FIFA president Sepp Blatter wrote on Twitter.

"But Eusebio's place among the greats will never be taken away."

English football hero Bobby Charlton, who helped Manchester United to victory over Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final, said it had been a privilege to have known the man dubbed "the Black Panther".

"He was one of the finest players I ever had the privilege to play against," Charlton said at Old Trafford on Sunday, where around 75,000 fans staged a minute's applause ahead of an English FC Cup game.

"Not only that, he was a true sportsman. His goals record is incredible and stands the test of time."

The player's body was taken to Benfica's Luz stadium (Stadium of Light) in Lisbon, where fans placed flowers and prayed in front of Eusebio's statue.

"For me, he is simply the creator of football," said 24-year-old fan Luis Marques, while one banner left at the statue read: "I haven't come to say goodbye, but to say thank-you."

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