Pele recalls Gordon Banks’ historic save in emotional tribute to England goalkeeper

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Pele recalls Gordon Banks' historic save in emotional tribute to England goalkeeper


Banks, who died overnight aged 81, will be remembered for denying Pele at the 1970 World Cup with a gravity-defying save

Brazil legend Pele has described Gordon Banks as a goalkeeper with magic after the England goalkeeper passed away aged 81.

Banks, widely regarded as England’s greatest ever keeper, will be remembered for his unimaginable save from Pele’s header during the group stages of the 1970 World Cup.

Defender Carlos Alberto had released Jairzinho to sprint down the right before rounding Terry Cooper and clipping a perfectly-weighted cross back through the England penalty area.

Banks’ save in 1970 is one of the most famous in football

Pele rose majestically into the air and sent down a bullet header which kicked up off the hard Mexican turf and looked set to fly into the back of the net.

Banks, though, somehow threw himself across to stick out his massive right hand and push the ball over the crossbar.

“I scored so many goals in my life, but many people, when they meet me, always ask me about that save,” Pele said.

“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.

Pele spoke of his friendship with Banks

Pele spoke of his friendship with Banks

“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.”

While Pele was shocked by the save, Banks knew exactly what he was doing.

“When we had training sessions (in Mexico), I noticed that when the ball was dropping in front of me, it was kicking up, not staying low like it did in England,” he said in an interview on the Football Writers’ Association website in January 2018.

Banks was 81-years-old when he passed away

Banks was 81-years-old when he passed away

“I stopped back to do some extra shooting training to help me get used to it, and that helped me make the save. Pele was around the penalty spot when the guy crossed it from the wing, and I knew he was going to get up to it, because he could jump really high.

“I knew that I had to come off the line to narrow the angle, then once Pele had punched it with his head down to my right-hand side, I knew I had to get over there very quickly.

“The ball was going in and as I dived I had to anticipate how high it was going to come up from the hard surface. As I reached across, I got it right, the ball hit the top of my hand and went off… but honestly, I thought it was a goal.

“I hit the floor and turned around, I saw the ball bounce behind the goal – and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, Banksy, you lucky t***’.”

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