Eusebio’s Last Wish Fulfilled as Coffin Taken on Lap of Honor at Benfica’s Stadium of Light (Photo)

Eusebio funeralEusebio was once the king of Portuguese soccer. His club, Benfica, helped ensure that his send-off was fit for royalty.

Eusebio’s funeral was held in Lisbon on Monday. Tens of thousands of people paid tribute to the soccer legend who died of heart failure at age 71 on Sunday.

His body was brought to Benfica’s Stadium of Light on Sunday night, where it lay in state in front of the stadium’s iconic Door 1. On Monday, a hearse drove the coffin on a lap of honor around the inside of the stadium, where an estimated 10,000 mourners came to say farewell. Pall bearers then carried the coffin to a podium in the center circle, as fans cheered and sang both Benfica songs and the Portuguese national anthem. The Benfica service fulfilled Eusebio’s final wish, according to UEFA.com.

After the Benfica service, Eusebio’s remains were then taken from the stadium and driven on a police-escorted procession through the streets of Lisbon. There was a small ceremony at city hall before a larger funeral mass took place at a local cathedral.

The Portuguese government declared three days of national morning in Eusebio’s honor, and a minute of silence will precede all Portuguese soccer games this weekend.

Known as the “Black Panther,” Eusebio spent 15 seasons with Benfica, winning 11 league titles and lifting the Taça de Portugal (Portuguese Cup) five times. He led Benfica to European Cup glory in 1962 and won the Ballon d’Or Award, which recognizes the best player in Europe, in 1965.

The Mozambique-born Eusebio scored  733 goals in 745 official games in his career. He is widely considered one of the greatest players in soccer history, and Portuguese prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho called him an example to players and fans alike, according to the Associated Press.

“A football genius and example of humility, an outstanding athlete and generous man, Eusebio was for all sports fans and for all Portuguese an example of professionalism, determination and devotion to the colors of the national jersey and of Benfica,” Coelho said in a statement.

Eusebio was buried at a cemetery near the Stadium of Light later in the evening.

See Eusebio’s coffin at the Stadium of Light below.

Eusebio coffin

Have a question for Marcus Kwesi O’Mard? Send it to him via Twitter at @NESNsoccer or @mkomard, his Facebook page or NESN Soccer’s Facebook page or send it here.

Photo via Twitter/@apeo

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