In Summary
  • Banks, who has died aged 81, earned his place in the pantheon of England icons when he flung himself to his right to turn Pele's goal-bound header over the crossbar in the group stages of the 1970 World Cup.

LONDON

It says much about the brilliance of Gordon Banks that the World Cup-winning England goalkeeper never rated his legendary save from Pele as the greatest stop of his glittering career.

Banks, who has died aged 81, earned his place in the pantheon of England icons when he flung himself to his right to turn Pele's goal-bound header over the crossbar in the group stages of the 1970 World Cup.

Such was the accuracy and force of Pele's effort that the Brazil great thought he had scored and was beginning to celebrate before being stopped in his tracks by Banks's breathtaking intervention.

"I heard Pele shout 'Goal!' after he headed it," Banks said. "Definitely. He thought it was past me."

Banks's England teammate Bobby Charlton echoed the feelings of the fans inside Guadalajara's Estadio Jalisco and the millions who have seen the save since.
"That is without question the greatest save I have ever seen," said Charlton.

It was also a tribute to Banks's diligence and attention.

Noticing the ball was bouncing higher than usual during practice on the sun-baked Mexican pitches, Banks adjusted his technique and his reward was football immortality.

"I noticed in shooting sessions that sometimes the ball would kick up a bit more," he told the Daily Mail.

"I was able to anticipate that it was going to bounce up and I could flick it over."

Banks had no complaints about being revered for his showdown with Pele.

But, for the man himself, that save actually played second fiddle to a stop he made while playing for Stoke City on a dank evening in London's East End.

Asked in 2016 if denying Pele was his crowning glory, Banks replied: "No, that was a penalty (save) from Geoff Hurst against Stoke in the League Cup semi-final in 1972."

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