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 soccer history, has died. He was 81. English soccer club Stoke, one of Banks' former teams, posted a statement from his family on Twitter yesterday. "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 soccer'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.
At the next World Cup in Mexico in 1970, 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." 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 realized 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."
The England team Twitter account on Tuesday posted a video of what is often called the "save of the century." "An all-time great for England," current England coach Gareth Southgate said. Brazil, however, eventually won that group game 1-0 and then went on to win its third World Cup title.