April 15, 2021

Gordon Banks dies, the man who stopped Pele

Gordon Banks dies, the man who stopped Pele

"You're a lucky bastard," he thought Gordon Banks after doing what is still considered the best stop in history. Under the heat of Guadalajara, in the Mexican summer of 1970, Banks had managed to stop Pele's header from looking for the corner of the goal. "I scored the goal, but he stopped it"said the Brazilian later.

The story of the two was joined forever until in 2008 "O Rei" was commissioned to inaugurate the statue that recalls that stop outside Britannia Stadium, where plays Stoke City, the last club with which Banks played in the elite.

In 1970 Banks was already world champion. He had been the starting goalkeeper in all games of the World 66, which ended with the only English triumph so far. Banks was the goalkeeper of Leicester, which also gave him his first moment of glory fifty years before the team coached by Claudio Ranieri got the league title. After two lost finals of the Ciopa, the FA Cup, in 1964 won in the League Cup Stoke City, with which he would win the same trophy eight years later.

Leicester had served him to reach the elite after the two teams in his city, Sheffield, had not noticed him. Neither Wednesday nor United had it in mind and had to play with modest Chesterfield before Leicester took him to the elite. He had left school early, in high school, and football was his way of building a professional future.

When he made the mythical stop to Pelé, he was already goalkeeper of Stoke City. In 1967, after the appearance of Peter Shilton, the Leicester decided that it was time to sell it. The Stoke paid 52,500 pounds for it, a few million pesetas of the time. Shilton, who would become the second goalkeeper in the history of England to play a semifinals of a World Cup in Italy 90, was then 18 years old and Banks was about to turn 30. Nobody imagined then the proodige of longevity that would be Peter Shilton or the race that still remained to Banks. The 70 World Cup was his last chance in a World Cup and he left with the sadness of not being able to play the last game, the crossing of the quarter-final against West Germany because of food poisoning. "Why did it have to happen to me if we all ate the same thing?" He lamented ever since. He had to play Peter Bonetti, who had already been his substitute in 1966, and England lost 3-2.

In October of 1972 a traffic accident definitively separated him from elite football. When trying to overtake a truck, it collided with a vehicle that came in front. Lost the vision of the right eye, and they had to give him 200 points on his face. That was his last season in the elite. Five years later, upon seeing that his useful eye compensated for the vision of the one he had lost, he dared to try the American adventure, like other great footballers, like Pele himself. He left for Florida to play at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers with George Best. In his first season he was chosen the best goalkeeper of the championship and he held on for another year before finally retiring.

Banks (December 30, 1937 – February 12, 2019) tested as a coach at Port Vale and Telford United, but his career was short. After the death of Sir Stanley Matthews in 2000, he was named honorary president of Stoke City, a position he held until his death. He suffered from a kidney cancer that was treated since 2015.


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