The companions of Josef Masopust and Eusébius were suffocated by totalitarian regimes

The best Czech footballer of the 20th century, Josef Masopust, received the Golden Ball for winning the most prestigious poll for the year 1962, when Czechoslovakia reached the final of the World Cup, from a representative of the French magazine that France Football before the match against Benfica Lisbon in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup in March 1963.

The first to congratulate him on this honor was his opponent Eusébio, the famous “Black Pearl of Mozambique”, as his nickname refers to his African origins. A congratulatory message from his friend Eusébio – this is forever written in the caption under the picture of the two players shaking hands. The Portuguese footballer received this trophy in 1965.

They have a lot in common. Not just football experiences. Their careers were severely damaged by the totalitarian regimes in which they lived. Communist in the case of Masopust and authoritarian conservative – as can be read in the political classification – of Portuguese Prime Minister António Salazar in the case of Eusébio.

Surgery only by Portuguese doctors

In 2011, Josef Masopust celebrated his 80th birthday, a social event that far exceeded football and national boundaries. Important personalities, including the then president of the world football organization FIFA, the Swiss lawyer Joseph Blatter, arrived at the Estates Theater in Prague with congratulations. And Eusebio is not missing either. Although he was eleven years younger, health problems limited him.

“I picked him up at the airport and took him to the city center, to the Ambasador Hotel,” recalls Pavel Červený, manager of the Czech international team, who introduced the Portuguese star. “Mr. Eusébio walked around after his residence, he reached the nearby Old Town Square, which he loved,” recalled another guest of the program. However, the walk through the expensive architecture, the mother of cities, is very short. “He was worried about walking, his knees hurt,” reveals Červený.

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And in the following confidential interview with his friend Masopust, the Mozambican told why he was lying down. “I’ve had six surgeries on my left knee, one on my right, but it didn’t go well,” he complained with bitterness in his voice. “I had offers from well-known specialists from America and Germany to perform the procedure, but I had to go to Portuguese doctors, who were not very good at the time,” he sighed. “The dictator Salazar did not allow Portugal to be talked down about, that the medical care was not at that level,” he explained. “And I took it. I’m sixty years old disabled,” he is not afraid of this label either.

A child from the colony

He is an outstanding football player for whom continents bow. But he carried the weight of his roots from his youth. He was born in Laurenco Marques (now Maputo), in the capital of the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, located on the east coast of the African continent.

His father was a Caucasian railway worker Laurindo António da Silva Ferreira who came from Angola, his mother Elisa Anissabeni was a native black woman. Dad died of tetanus when he was eight years old, mom raised four sons. However, his immense football talent ensures a better life for him, indeed for the whole family.

At seventeen, he established himself at the local club, scoring three goals in the first game, for which he received a golden fountain pen from the club’s sponsor. He immediately sold it, bought food and fruit and threw a big feast for the brothers. A year later – as a well-known player – he bought the pen from the goldsmith…

At nineteen, he moved to Europe, to Benfica Lisbon. Together with other young players, he lives in a big house in the country where he feels like he is in paradise – he has his own bed for the first time. It was only in Lisbon that he completed the eighth grade and completed his primary education. Even Salazar’s regime had positive elements, for example compulsory schooling with the aim of eliminating the high illiteracy of the population.

With his first salary and bonuses, Eusébio bought his mother a house in Mozambique and provided work for his siblings. He never forgot how difficult his situation was.

Slave Rebellion

The career of Eusebius is a pearl. Ballon d’Or 1965, bronze medal at the 1966 World Cup in England, where he was top scorer with nine goals, victory with Benfica Lisbon in the Champions Cup 1961/1962, final 1967/1968. Golden Boot 1967/1968 with 42 successful league goals.

His popularity is so great, in some places it even overshadows the Brazilian King Pelé. He takes the biggest reward at Benfica, but it is small compared to the salaries of players in other Western European countries. The offer of the Italian Inter Milan was thrown on the table, and the Spanish clubs Real Madrid and FC Barcelona also failed. The political power will not allow the national jewel to shine beyond the borders of Portugal.

Eusebius and Masopust

Eusébio da Silva Ferreira

Most important club: Benfica Lisbon (1961–1975)

Portugal national team: 1961–1973 (64 caps / 41 goals)

Trophies and achievements: Ballon d’Or 1965, bronze at the 1966 World Cup in England + top scorer of the championship with nine goals, winner of the Champions Cup 1961/1962 and final 1967/1968, Golden Boot 1967/1968 (42 goals) and 1972 /1973 (41 goals), 11x Portuguese league champion

(6 February 1931, Střimice u Mostu – 29 June 2015, Prague)

Most important club: Dukla Prague (1952–1968)

Czechoslovakia national team: 1954–1966 (63 matches / 10 goals)

Trophies and achievements: Golden Ball 1962, silver at the 1962 World Championship in Chile, bronze at the 1960 European Championship in France, semi-final of the Champions Cup 1966/1967, 8x Czechoslovak league champion

In 1970, after the death of the dictator Salazar, he decided to take a drastic step: he asked for a million escudos for the contract, knowing that the local currency was very soft compared to other foreign ones. He fails, getting half, but the fans go wild over the audacity of the still good kid. Suddenly he was branded dirty again from the colony.

It does not break the bond of slavery. “Eusébio has no rights, he can’t ask for anything, he can’t fight for his goal. All he has to do is shoot goals, sweat his jersey, keep his head down and listen! At a time when people are walking on the moon, there are still people who are not even allowed to raise their heads!” the thunder of his lawyer Silva Resende, who became president of the Portuguese Football Association in the 1980s.

The contract with Eusebius ended in 1975, when democracy had permeated the country on the Iberian Peninsula for five years. Finally, he will get a foreign engagement, he works in clubs in the USA, Canada and Mexico. However, the peak form is long gone. However, it does bring some money.

After his career, he became a recognized celebrity, a club and national legend, and acted as an ambassador for the organization of EURO 2004, which was hosted by Portugal. But at the same time, he was increasingly accompanied by health problems, ailments accumulated during an active career, not removed by the necessary treatment.

He died in January 2014 of cardiac arrest at the early age of 72. A year after him, his friend Josef Masopust also left for the heavenly playground at the age of 84.

Earnings only as a coach

Josef Masopust’s sports career is well known among Czech fans. The world-class football player has above-standard conditions in the socialist establishment, a solid background in sports and life, even in the people’s army, and the rise in rank is associated with higher financial compensation. Ability to travel around the world.

But fake pseudo-amateurism is not allowed to earn insurance after the end of the race. Although the richest European clubs will be interested in his services, going abroad is very limited and directed at the end of his active career.

In 1968, when society was undergoing social changes that loosened the strict regime, at the age of thirty-seven he was allowed to take up the position of playing coach at the common Belgian club (now defunct) Crossing Schaerbeek, where he advanced to the top division and secured a permanent position.

In 1980, he got a job as a coach at KSC Hasselt. He always remembers that these are his most profitable socialist states. Without great fame, but for interesting money.

In 1988, the Indonesian Football Association offered him a spot on the Olympic selection bench. “We were paid in dollars, for Pepík it was the most profitable commitment in his life. He earned more in a month than in a year at home,” recalls his assistant in the Asian country, Milan Bokša . “But we have to pay thirty percent to Pragosport, the socialist regime needs money,” he describes the mandatory obligations of the work trip.

A year later, in November, the revolution came, but the Czech duo had a contract until 1991. “Conditions changed,” Bokša admitted, adding that the bank account had a higher value.

The Czech Golden Ball, like Eusébio, only received a financial reward at the end of his sports career. After the fall of the totalitarian regime.

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