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Gordon Banks, England’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper, died yesterday aged 81.
Banks made 510 league appearances for Chesterfield, Leicester — with whom he won the League Cup in 1964 — and Stoke before retiring from the professional game at the age of 34 following a road accident which cost him the sight in his right eye, although he later returned briefly to the sport in the United States.
But it was on the international stage that he established himself as a star, making his England debut in a 2-1 defeat by Scotland at Wembley in April 1963 and going on to win 73 senior caps, most famously in the 4-2 World Cup final victory over West Germany in 1966.
However, he will probably be best remembered for his heroics in Mexico four years later when he made the logic-defying save which was to define his career when he somehow managed to turn Brazil star Pele’s header over the crossbar.
“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 realised it has been a bit special.”
Banks 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.
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