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When you say the name Gordon Banks many things come to mind. England winning their first and only World Cup in 1966. Facing 34 attempts on goal against Liverpool and still keeping a clean sheet in a FA Cup semi-final. Of course, that save against Pele in 1970. Fifteen years at the top of the game, by all accounts Gordon Banks was an icon. Today, at the age of 81, we lost that icon. In an Instagram post, Pele paid tribute to the man and his legendary save:
“But then this man, Banks, appeared in my sight, like a kind of blue phantom, is how I described him. He came from nowhere and he did something I didn’t feel was possible. He pushed my header, somehow, up and over. And I couldn’t believe what I saw. Even now when I watch it I, I can’t believe it. I can't believe how he moved so far, so fast.”
Today, on the day of his passing, he will be remembered across the globe for his gravity-defying saves and heroic feats. Banksy’s legacy is undeniable, but if you ask the ones closest to him he is not defined by it. He is defined by the warmth of his friendship, and the love he had for his family. Forced to leave school at the age of 15 to help support his family, Banks bagged coal and worked on builders sites in his hometown of Sheffield. Then by “sheer accident”, as he put
it, he was picked from a crowd one day to stand in as goalkeeper for local amateur side Millspaugh and his journey to hoisting the World Cup trophy had begun. Banks never forgot these humble beginnings, after living what he described as a “very privileged” life as a professional footballer he felt the need to give back.
Over the years Banks would volunteer his time and resources to places like North Staffordshire Hospital and organizations like the Children’s Emergency Access Fund and the Alzheimer’s society. Pele sums Banks' legacy up better than anyone ever could:
“While it was indeed phenomenal(referring to the save), my memory of Gordon is not defined by that - it is defined by his friendship. He was a kind and warm man who gave so much to people...I have great sadness in my heart today and I send condolences to the family he was so proud of. Rest in Peace, my friend. Yes, you were a goalkeeper with magic. But you were also so much more. You were a fine human being.”
Gordon’s legacy inside the world of football is eternal. He will never be forgotten. Peers and fans alike will reminisce about his saves, heroics, and the 1966 World Cup for as long as we love football. They’ll think about the “save of the century” and use it as the standard to rate every save that has come or will come after it. But his family will remember him for something else. They will remember him for his dedication to life and the love he had for them.
Capture a piece of Banks' legacy with this iconic signed print from VintageSports.com
Knox Ashford, a content writer for Vintage Sports, is a regular contributor to the site including stories, product descriptions, and video scripts. You can follow him on twitter @KnoxVSports for regular updates.