Brazil great Pele paid a moving tribute to England’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks following his death, lauding him as “magic” and revealing his gratitude for being denied by what became known as the “Save of the Century”.
Banks’ family released a statement through his former club Stoke City on Tuesday, confirming the 81-year-old had “passed away peacefully overnight”.
He was capped 73 times by his country and was an ever-present as Alf Ramsey’s team claimed World Cup glory on home soil in 1966.
But Banks, widely considered to be among the greatest goalkeepers ever, produced one of the World Cup’s most iconic moments four years later, pulling off an astonishing reaction save to keep out a header from Pele in Mexico City.
That save was the catalyst to a long friendship, and Pele penned a touching tribute to Banks on Tuesday.
A post on his official Facebook profile read: “For many people, their memory of Gordon Banks is defined by the save he made against me in 1970. I understand why.
“The save was one of the best I have ever seen – in real life and in all the thousands of games I have watched since.
“When you are a footballer, you know straight away how well you have hit the ball. I hit that header exactly as I had hoped. Exactly where I wanted it to go. And I was ready to celebrate.
“But then this man, Banks, appeared in my sight, like a kind of blue phantom, is how I described him. He came from nowhere and he did something I didn’t feel was possible. He pushed my header, somehow, up and over. And I couldn’t believe what I saw. Even now when I watch it l, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe how he moved so far, so fast.
“I scored so many goals in my life, but many people, when they meet me, always ask me about that save. While it was indeed phenomenal, my memory of Gordon is not defined by that – it is defined by his friendship. He was a kind and warm man who gave so much to people.
“So, I am glad he saved my header – because that act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure. Whenever we met, it was always like we had never been apart.
“I have great sadness in my heart and I send condolences to the family he was so proud of.
“Rest in peace, my friend. Yes, you were a goalkeeper with magic. But you were also so much more. You were a fine human being.”