By Vatican News
Their names are Eusébio Da Silva Ferreira and Maria de Lurdes Mutola. Two of Mozambique’s most famous and successful athletes: the first a football star, the second an Olympic athlete.
Pope Francis referenced both of them during his address to the young people gathered at the Maxaquene Stadium in Maputo, on Thursday morning.
He was encouraging the youth to “keep dreaming and moving forward”. That is when he mentioned Eusébio Da Silva as a positive example of perseverance, someone whose passion for football kept him going, despite everything.
Eusébio Da Silva
Eusébio, also known as “the Black Panther”, is considered one of the top ten best football players of the 20th Century.
Born into a poor family in Maputo, he lost his father when he was young, but never gave up on his dream to become a footballer.
Over the 15 seasons he played for the Portuguese Club, Benfica, he scored a record 473 goals, which won him the coveted Ballon d’Or. Eusébio was 71 years of age when he died in 2014, but he remains a legend in Mozambique on account of his down-to-earth sense of team spirit and fair play.
Maria de Lurdes was the first athlete from Mozambique to win an Olympic gold medal, in Sydney, in the year 2000.
Over her long career, Maria went on to win another 20 gold medals, and was the World Champion in the 800-meters.
After 20 years as an athlete, Maria created a foundation in Mozambique that helps young people build a future for themselves.
The "Fundação Lurdes Mutola" also assists people with disabilities, and victims of the 500,000 anti-personnel mines scattered throughout Mozambique during the struggle for independence and civil war.