Voice of Sport

Another great African passes on, Portugal football star Mario Coluna

Coluna scored in both European Cup finals won by Benfica: in 1961 he beat FC Barcelona's Antoni Ramallets from long range, in a 3–2 win in Bern.

ANOTHER African football legend has passed away, close the demise of the great Eusebio.

Less than two months after the death of Eusebio, Mozambigue, Portugal and SL Benfica are mourning the loss of another footballing great, his teammate Mario Coluna. Coluna succumbed to a heart attack on Tuesday, aged 78.

Mario Esteves Coluna, born February 25, 1935 was a Portuguese footballer who played with the great Eusebio mainly as a central midfielder.

Coluna was Born in Inhaca, Mozambique, to a Portuguese father and a Mozambican mother.

Sacred monster

He spent most of his career with Benfica, appearing in 525 official games and scoring 127 goals during 16 professional seasons. Dubbed Monstro Sagrado (Sacred Monster) he won 19 major titles with his main club, including 10 national leagues and two European Cups.

With Eusebio, Coluna represented Portugal at the 1966 World Cup, earning a total of 57 caps.

Coluna was spotted by SL Benfica while playing for Desportivo de Lourenco Marques [in Mozambique], where he excelled at basketball and track and field. Signed by the Lisbon and national giants in 1954 he started playing as an inside forawrd, scoring a career-best 14 goals in 26 games in his first season in Portugal and winning the first of his national championships; subsequently he was successfully reconverted as a central attacking midfielder by manager Otto Gloria, where he put to good use his stamina and strength, adding to this an accurate and powerful long-distance and technical skills. From 1963 to 1970, Coluna was the Reds’  captain.

Star cast

Already at the service of  Olymppique Lyonnais he was awarded a testimonial match by his main club on December 8, 1970, playing against a UEFA selection that featured the likes of Johan Cruyff, Dragan Dzajic, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Luis Suarez and Uwe Seeler.

He retired professionally at the age of 35, after one sole campaign with the French side – he still spent one year with amateurs Sport Clube Estrela from Portoalegre acting as a player-coach.

Eusebio penalty

Coluna scored in both European Cup finals won by Benfica: in 1961 he beat FC Barcelona’s Antoni Ramallet from long range, in a 3–2 win in Bern.

The following year against Real Madrid, he netted the 3–3 equaliser and, subsequently, was supposed to take the penalty that resulted in the 4-3 lead (eventual 5–3 triumph), when youngster Eusebio politely asked if he could shoot it instead.

Coluna played 57 times for the Portuguese, scoring eight goals. His first appearance was in a friendly match with Scotland on May 4 1955 (0–3 loss), and his last on 11 December 1968 in a 2–4 defeat in Greece for the  1970 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

Coluna captained the Magriços side in all except one of the games during the third-place campaign at the 1966 World Cup, in England.