By J Hutcherson – WASHINGTON, DC (Jan 5, 2014) US Soccer Players – Back in the old days of VHS tapes and not a lot of soccer on TV, I bought a copy of the 1968 European Cup final. Manchester United – Benfica at Wembley is the soccer equivalent of buying a greatest hits record. It’s why the tape was one of the few full games available in the States. What I got for my money was one of the better extra times ever played, several moments of unquestioned genius, and Eusebio defining what it means to be sporting.
It’s a famous scene now. Eusebio with a clear path to goal has his shot saved by Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney. Instead of the head in hands or any of the other classics of missed opportunity, Eusebio gestures towards Stepney and applauds the effort. Eusebio’s intent is clear. Job well done, and now let’s see who wins this.
Apologies to those of you who want to separate soccer out as distinct from other sports. A game is a game, even at the professional level. What Eusebio showed in that moment wasn’t about the sport he played. It was about the person.
For someone who had no choice but to address colonialism, classism, and racism, Eusebio took his opportunities to distinguish himself as exceptional.
Eusebio would finish his career with a cameo appearance in the American Soccer League in the late 1970s. From Mozambique to New Brunswick, New Jersey with stops in between on the biggest stages world soccer has to offer. As a player and a person, he chose to make his moments count.
Read Clemente Lisi’s 2010 interview with Eusebio.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him at email@example.com.
More from J Hutcherson: