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Portugal's final homage to Eusebio attracts tens of thousands to Lisbon

LISBON -- Tens of thousands of people turned out in the rain on Monday to say a final farewell to Portuguese soccer legend Eusebio, who grew up in grinding African poverty to become one of the world's greatest players.

Mourners lined the streets of Lisbon and applauded as the black hearse carrying Eusebio's coffin, draped in the red and white colors of his club side Benfica, passed by in a funeral cortege broadcast live on TV.

Earlier, about 10,000 mourners applauded and cheered as six pallbearers carried the coffin and placed it on a golden plinth in the center of the pitch at Benfica's “Stadium of Light.”

The coffin remained on the plinth for only a few minutes before it was carried around the stadium in the hearse as Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli's “Con Te Partiro” was played from loudspeakers.

Mourners, many in tears, threw red and white Benfica scarves on the hearse and waved red and green Portuguese flags as it passed by, crying out: “Eusebio, Eusebio.”

“Eusebio was out of this world like (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi. He will be Benfica's eternal myth,” said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus.

Fans left flowers, handmade posters and Benfica scarves at a statue of the player that sits outside the stadium.

Flags flew at half mast across Lisbon, with the Portuguese government decreeing three days of mourning for Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, who died of a heart attack early Sunday aged 71.

“Portugal has today lost one of its most beloved sons, Eusebio da Silva Ferreira. The country mourns his death,” President Anibal Cavaco Silva had said.

Cavaco Silva and Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho both attended the funeral mass held in the Seminary Church near the stadium, which was broadcast live on Portuguese television.

Eusebio was buried at the nearby Lumiar cemetery after the mass.

Portugal's current football star Ronaldo dedicated his two goals in Real Madrid's 3-0 win over Celta Vigo on Monday to Eusebio.

“I want to thank everyone, especially to all the people in Spain for the homage they have paid to Eusebio. For the Portuguese it is very important to feel the warmth shown by the Spanish people,” said Ronaldo.

“He helped me a lot with the national team and he is an example for us. It is very sad that we have lost one of the greatest players of all time.”

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 Ronaldo honors Eusebio in Madrid win 
Two women hold a poster depicting Benfica soccer legend Eusebio da Silva Ferreira and read “Goodbye King” as a car bearing his coffin passes by, in Lisbon, Portugal on Monday, Jan. 6. Portugal paid final homage yesterday to Portuguese soccer legend Eusebio, also known as the “Black Panther,” whose death has sparked worldwide tributes. (AFP)

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