LONDON (AFP) – Pele said Gordon Banks’ legendary save in the 1970 World Cup bound the two men together in a lasting friendship as he paid tribute to the former England goalkeeper who died aged 81 on Tuesday.
The Brazilian great said even now he cannot believe Banks managed to scoop away the header in Guadalajara’s Estadio Jalisco.
“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,” Pele, 78, said on Facebook.
”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, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe how he moved so far, so fast.”
Although Banks had played a key role when England won the 1966 World Cup, the save from Pele four years later came to define his career.
”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.
”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.”
Bobby Charlton, the driving force of the 1966 World Cup team, paid his own tribute to Banks, saying he was ”proud to call him a team-mate”.
”Obviously we shared that great day in 1966 but it was more than that,” Charlton said.
”Even though I was on the pitch and have seen it many times since, I still don’t know how he saved that header from Pele.”
Current England manager Gareth Southgate said he had enjoyed spending time with an ”all-time great”.
”It was particularly special to be with him at a Football Writers’ tribute dinner last year and wish him well on his 80th birthday,” Southgate said.
”Gordon spoke to the room about that incredible save from Pele against Brazil back in 1970 and moments like that from his remarkable World Cup-winning career will continue to linger long in the memory.”
The Germany team showed it had long forgotten the bitter taste of defeat in saluting the 73-times capped goalkeeper.
”A fierce opponent and a good man. Rest in peace, Gordon Banks #DieMannschaft,” the team said on Twitter.
England’s present number one Jordan Pickford — who was a pivotal figure at last year’s World Cup — tweeted a video of the save from Pele.
”One of the greatest saves of all time. RIP Gordon Banks,” Pickford said.
One of Pickford’s predecessors at Everton, Welsh icon Neville Southall, was coached by Banks, who retired from the game in 1973 having lost an eye in a car crash in October 1972.
”He taught me for a bit. He had an incredible knowledge of goalkeeping, but more than that, he was a gentleman,” tweeted Southall.
”He was so laid-back, so professional and a model goalkeeper. He was a model man too. He changed people’s perceptions of goalkeeping.”
Football’s global governing body FIFA sent its condolences.
”Once a champion, always a champion. We are deeply sorry to hear of the death of @England World Cup winner @thegordonbanks,” it tweeted.
”He was one of the game’s greatest goalkeepers, a provider of stunning World Cup memories & a gentleman.”
For those who followed in his wake between the posts he was a hard act to follow, but England were blessed in having two world-class goalkeepers in Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton.
”He was a wonderful man and we knew we had big shoes to fill and that helped us as well,” Clemence told the BBC.
”We had to keep the standard of English goalkeeping at the level Gordon had set.”