Departed in 2013, remembered eternally

Christian Benitez #11 of Ecuador reacts after scoring a goal in minute 40 of the game against Colombia
© Getty Images

Every year, football loses some of its most celebrated figures, be they coaches, players or officials. Tributes were paid to all of them at the time of their passing and now, as the end of another 12 months approaches, remembers some of the most prominent.

Three former Brazilian stars will unfortunately not get the chance to experience another FIFA World Cup™ in their homeland. Regarded as one of the greatest right-backs of all time, Djalma Santos, who was part of the Seleçao sides that emerged victorious at Sweden 1958 and Chile 1962 and revolutionised the position by fully exploring its attacking possibilities, died in July at the age of 84.

He was followed a few months later by his team-mate at left-back, Nilton Santos, 83, another defender who was not averse to venturing upfield. In addition, the unflappable goalkeeper from that memorable era, 83-year-old Gilmar (94 caps), also passed away.

Three more legendary goalkeepers appeared in obituary columns this year, including Uruguay’s Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, 67, who performed at three World Cups during the 1960s and 70s: England 1966, Mexico 1970 and West Germany 1974.

“I know that it gave him great pride to hear Lev Yashin, one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, say that Mazurkiewicz was his natural successor when he retired in 1971,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.

The goalkeeping fraternity also bade farewell to legendary Moroccan Allal Ben Kassou, 72, who defended his country’s honour on 116 occasions, and iconic Spaniard Antoni Ramallets, 89, who represented Barcelona between 1946 and 1961.

The African football community found itself in mourning several times in 2013, never more so than when it lost 52-year-old former Cameroon playmaker Louis Paul Mfede, a veteran of two World Cup campaigns and winner of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1988.

Djibril Alioune, who played for the Senegalese national team for 12 years, Emmanuel Quarshie (59), captain of Ghana’s 1982 Africa Cup of Nations-winning side, and Abdelhamid Kermali, 82 years of age, the mastermind behind Algeria’s first-ever Cup of Nations triumph in 1990, also departed this year.

Sadly, some of the deaths recorded over the past 12 months involved younger men whose lives were tragically cut short, such as Ecuadorian forward Cristian Benitez (58 caps, 24 goals) who suffered a heart attack at the age of 27, and former Italian international front man Stefano Borgonovo, whose five-year battle with motor neurone disease ended in June. He was 49.

Two other attack-minded players recently passed away: 60-year-old Frenchman Pierre Pleimelding, fondly remembered by Lille fans for his goals in the late 1970s, and Uruguayan winger Luis Cubilla, 72, who racked up 38 caps, three World Cup campaigns (1962, 1970 and 1974) and an assortment of silverware – including three Copa Libertadores crowns, two Intercontinental Cups and nine Uruguayan League titles – during his playing career.

After hanging up his boots, Cubilla enjoyed a highly successful move into coaching, capturing two Copa Libertadores trophies, ten Paraguayan Championships, two Recopa Sudamericana titles and an Intercontinental Cup with Paraguyan giants Olimpia.

Aside from those already mentioned, a number of ex-coaches died throughout the year, including Jan Zwartkruis, who took the reins of the Dutch national team at the end of the 1970s, and 80-year-old Jose Mehdi Faria, who steered Morocco to the Round of 16 at Mexico 1986, a hitherto unparalleled achievement for an African team.

In October, the FIFA President was saddened by the news of the death from cancer of Bruno Metsu, who worked in the Middle East and Africa, guiding Senegal to the quarter-finals of Korea/Japan 2002. He was 59. “I will long remember the man who said, ‘To get a taste of the World Cup is magical – you feel like you're on another planet’,” said Blatter.

Another respected Frenchman, Jean Vincent, passed away in August aged 82. A fearsome goalscorer for the great Lille and Reims sides of the 1950s, he made 48 appearances and registered 22 goals for France, helping Les Bleus claim third place at the 1958 World Cup.

Post-retirement, Vincent embarked on a varied and fruitful coaching career, experiencing particular success with Nantes and Cameroon.

The news of the death of Sampdoria president Riccardo Garrone, following a long illness and two days short of his 77th birthday, was met with great sorrow in Italy. Similarly, there was considerable mourning for 82-year-old Joao Rocha, president of Sporting Lisbon from 1973 to 1986, and former Mali coach Mory Goita, aged 59.

It goes without saying that every time the football family loses a much-loved member, President Blatter is left with a heavy heart. But the death of personal friend Gabriel Monachon – a former Aarau winger, the first-ever president of Neuchatel Xamax and a tremendous servant to Swiss football in general – at the age of 89 struck a particularly poignant chord with the head of FIFA.

In conclusion, this list is obviously – and unfortunately – not exhaustive. As one year ends and a new one begins, would like to take the opportunity to honour all those involved in the beautiful game who passed away in 2013.

Recommended Stories