London: Gordon Banks, England’s goalkeeper during their triumphant 1966 World Cup campaign, has died aged 81, his former club Stoke City announced Tuesday. His family said the 73-times capped Banks, who lost an eye in a car crash in 1972, had passed away in his sleep.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight,” his family said. “We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him.”
Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over West Germany in the World Cup final at Wembley, tweeted a fulsome tribute to his former teammate.
“Very sad to hear the news that Gordon has died. One of the very greatest,” tweeted 77-year-old Hurst.
Banks, who played in every game of the 1966 campaign on home soil, is probably best known for a wonder save (titled Save of the Century) he produced to deny Brazilian great Pele in the 1970 World Cup group match. “Once I got my hand to it I hadn’t a clue where it was going,” he modestly said afterwards.
Pele – who would go on to lift the trophy with Brazil admitted later he had said ‘goal’, so sure was he that the ball was heading into the net. Brazil still won the game 1-0.
Banks, whose club playing career revolved largely around Stoke and Leicester City, is the latest of the 1966 team to pass away. Captain Bobby Moore, the baby of the team Alan Ball and Ray Wilson preceded him while several such as Nobby Stiles and Martin Peters suffer from Alzheimer’s.
“Oh no. Gordon Banks, an absolute hero of mine, and countless others, has died,” tweeted Gary Lineker. “@England’s World Cup winner was one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and such a lovely, lovely man. #RIP Gordon.”
Banks had no complaints about being revered for his showdown with Pele. But, for the man himself, that save actually played second fiddle to a stop he made while playing for Stoke City on a dank evening in London’s East End.
Asked in 2016 if denying Pele was his crowning glory, Banks replied: “No, it was a penalty (save) from Geoff Hurst against Stoke in the League Cup semifinal in 1972.”
Voted FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year six times
Save he made off Pele in 1970 was titled ‘Save of the 20th Century’
Played 73 times for England
During his playing days he was known as ‘Banks of England’