Of all the loving tributes that have been pouring in for Gordon Banks today, Pele’s farewell to his “magical friend” is perhaps the sweetest Pies have read.
The pair, of course, have been forever entwined since their shared nano-second during the 1970 World Cup group stage when Banks made that miraculous save to deny Pele’s goal-bound header.
On learning of his old mucker’s passing, the 78-year-old Brazilian icon took to Facebook to share his thoughts, revealing that he remains “glad” Banks saved his shot, for it kick-started decades of friendship between the two.
Pele’s message in full:
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 today 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.
Bloody hell Edson, we’re tearing up here.
Looking at photos of Banks and Pele together in subsequent years, smiling away, embracing one another, the bond and mutual admiration is immediately obvious.
These is probably Pies’ favourite mini-sequence, with Pele finally getting his own back on his old adversary at Wembley in 2000…