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Pele unveils statue of ex England goalkeeper Banks

SoccerNews in English Premier League 12 Jul 2008

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Brazilian football legend Pele unveiled a statue on Saturday of Gordon Banks, the England goalkeeper who made what is often dubbed the best save ever from a downward header by the Brazilian at the 1970 World Cup.

Pele, 67, was joined by South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the event at the Britannia Stadium, home of Stoke City FC, the northern English club where Banks played between 1967 and 1972.

“It has to be the biggest, doesn't it, because how many people get a statue in their honour?” 70-year-old Banks told the BBC.

“It's very big for me and very emotional.”

Banks said that he hadn't expected to be honoured in such a fashion.

“Normally they only erect statues for people who are dead,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

Banks, who was part of England's 1966 World Cup winning side but lost an eye in a car crash in 1972, won 73 England caps and also played for Leicester City and Chesterfield.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was among those who paid tribute to Banks ahead of the statue's unveiling, describing him as an example to the whole country.

“It will be a fitting tribute to a footballing great,” Brown said of the statue.

A Banks XI and a Pele XI, featuring former English league players including Ian Rush, John Barnes, Luther Blissett, Jan Molby and Matt Le Tissier, is also playing a charity game at the stadium as part of the celebrations.

Stoke City will play in the Premiership next season after a 23-year absence from top-flight football.

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