1966 World Cup-Winning England Goalkeeper Gordon Banks Passes Away
File photo of Brazilian soccer legend Pele (right) presenting former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks with a photograph showing Banks saving a header from Pele in the 1970 World Cup.
File photo of Brazilian soccer legend Pele (right) presenting former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks with a photograph showing Banks saving a header from Pele in the 1970 World Cup.(Photo: AP)

1966 World Cup-Winning England Goalkeeper Gordon Banks Passes Away

Gordon Banks, the World Cup-winning England goalkeeper who was also known for blocking a header from Pele that many consider to be the greatest save in football history, has died. He was 81.

English football club Stoke, one of Banks' former teams, posted a statement from his family on Twitter on Tuesday, 12 February.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight,” the statement on Twitter said. “We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him.”

No cause of death was given.

Known for his reflexes, Banks was one of English football's most revered players after helping the team win the 1966 World Cup on home soil. He conceded only one goal in five games before England beat West Germany 4-2 in the final at Wembley Stadium.

Four years later at the next World Cup in Mexico, Banks scurried across his line and dived to his right to stop a downward header from Pele.

“The ground was hard so I thought I should get off my line,” Banks recalled to the BBC in 2017, “and as I dived I had to anticipate how high it was going to bounce. I got a hand to it. The ball actually hit the top of my hand and looked as though it was going into the top of the net.”

File photo from 5/5/1965. Gordon Banks is seen jumping to make a save in the match with Hungary at Wembley.
File photo from 5/5/1965. Gordon Banks is seen jumping to make a save in the match with Hungary at Wembley.
(Photo: AP)

But Banks managed to scoop the low ball over the crossbar with his right hand.

“As I hit the floor I saw that the ball had missed the goal,” Banks said. “At first I thought, 'You lucky so-and-so,' but then I realised it has been a bit special.”

Pele recalled he was already shouting “Goal” when he headed the ball. “Like a salmon leaping up a waterfall, he threw himself to tip the ball over the crossbar,” Pele was quoted as saying . “It was an impossible play.”

Brazil, however, eventually won that group game 1-0 and then went on to win its third World Cup title.

In this July 26, 1966 file photo England’s goalkeeper Gordon Banks (left) hugs midfielder Nobby Stiles after the World Cup semi-final played at Wembley, London.
In this July 26, 1966 file photo England’s goalkeeper Gordon Banks (left) hugs midfielder Nobby Stiles after the World Cup semi-final played at Wembley, London.
(Photo: AP)

Banks, who was named FIFA goalkeeper of the year six times and made 73 appearances for England, was forced to retire in 1972, at the age of 35, after losing the sight in his right eye in a car accident. He lost one of his kidneys to cancer in 2005 and revealed in 2015 that he was facing another battle against cancer.

“If I could make a save like the one against Pele, while playing against the greatest in the world, then I will be able to battle through this health problem,” Banks said then.

"Banksie," as he was known, started his club career at Chesterfield before spells with Leicester (1959-67) and Stoke (1967-73) in the top division of English football.

You Were a Goalkeeper With Magic: Pele

Three-time World Cup winner Pele was among many who paid tribute to Banks. According to Pele, he was “glad” his header waskept out.

“That act was the start of a friendship between us thatI will always treasure,” the 78-year-old said on social media.

“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.”
Pele on Facebook

Banks is the fourth member of England’s lineup from the 1966 World Cup final to die, following captain Bobby Moore, Alan Ball and Ray Wilson.

“Gordon was a fantastic goalkeeper and I was proud to call him a teammate,” former England teammate Bobby Charlton said on Manchester United’s Twitter account. “He will be deeply missed.”

World Cup-winning Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said: “I am one of the many who built their dreams on your perfect save.”

England coach Gareth Southgate remembered Banks as “an all-time great for England,” and the team posted video of the 1970 World Cup save on its Twitter account.

Former Manchester goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel said: "So sad to hear that Gordon Banks one of my heroes and a true legend in life and football, has passed away.”

Banks’ final moment on the international stage came at the Kremlin in Moscow in December 2017 when he helped to draw the teams for last summer’s World Cup.

FIFA also praised Banks by using the clip from 1970, tweeting from its World Cup Twitter account.

“He was one of the game’s greatest goalkeepers, a provider of stunning World Cup memories & a gentleman,” FIFA wrote.

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