London, Feb 12 (IANS) England football great, goalkeeper Gordon Banks, whose safe pair of hands helped the Three Lions to their only World Cup final victory in 1966, has died at the age of 81, his family said on Tuesday.
One of the all-time-great keepers alongside the likes of Russia’s Lev Yashin, Banks’ split-second, acrobatic block to deny Pelé’s rocketing header in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico by scooping the bouncing ball over the crossbar is still widely regarded as one of the best saves ever made.
“Gordon Banks, the goalkeeper who made the save of the century against Pelé, has died,” mourned Spain’s sports newspaper As, reports Efe news.
In an interview following the game, which Brazil went on to win 1-0, Banks said Brazil’s famous number 10 approached him and said: “I thought that was a goal,” to which he replied: “You and me both.”
He said he could be seen laughing as he took his position for the ensuing corner as fellow England great, and captain at the time, Bobby Moore turned and said: “You’re getting old, Banksy, you used to hold onto them.”
Tributes from the world of football rolled in for the late goalkeeper.
“We’re deeply saddened to hear that Gordon Banks, our World Cup-winning goalkeeper has passed away,” England’s national team wrote on Twitter adding: “Our thoughts are with Gordon’s friends, family and supporters at this difficult time.”
Gary Lineker, another England legend who played for the national team between 1984 and 1992 said: “England’s World Cup winner was one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and such a lovely, lovely man.”
Banks of England, as he came to be known, had spells at English clubs Leicester City and Stoke City before his career was cut short when he lost the sight in one eye in a car crash in 1972, just two years after his famous save in Guadalajara.
He had attempted to overtake another car on a sharp bend when he collided with an oncoming vehicle and ended up in a roadside ditch. He required hundreds of stitches to his face but would never regain binocular vision.
Despite attempts to resume his career, he retired from professional soccer in the United Kingdom and later went on to have spells in the North American Soccer League.
Banks had a brief managerial career at Telford United.
In 2015, it was announced the former goalkeeper was undergoing treatment for kidney cancer.