Football has being paying tribute to Mario Coluna who has died in his native Mozambique following an illness.

Mozambique is to give a state funeral to former Benfica and Portugal captain Mario Coluna, who has died at the age of 78.

Coluna helped Benfica win the European Cup in 1961 and 1962 before captaining Portugal to third place in the 1966 World Cup in England.

Midfielder Coluna made 677 appearances over 17 seasons for the Lisbon outfit between 1954 and 1970, scoring 150 goals and helping them to win two European Cups (and a runner-up on three occasions), 10 Portuguese league titles and six domestic trophies.

At the end of his career, Coluna returned to Mozambique, where he was born, and coached the national team.

He became head of Mozambique’s football federation and also sports minister.

Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira said in a statement on the club’s website: ”It is not easy to say goodbye to someone whose life was among the greatest.

“Someone whose life path is unique and whose legacy will endure far beyond him. It is said that we are born equal. Untrue! Coluna was born different, for the better, much better.

“He was and will always be a football genius who magnified football and projected Sport Lisboa e Benficato a global dimension.

“Coluna gained in life the admiration of those who had the privilege of watching him play, but also the respect and recognition of those who, not having the opportunity to see his football, through reports and testimonies know he was one of the greatest talents of his generation.

“Coluna will always be with us. He will be present in our days because he earned that right, with his example and achievements!”

Coluna was born in 1935 and began his playing career in Maputo, joining Benfica in 1954.

Also part of that great Benfica team was Eusebio, who had made the same journey from Mozambique to Portugal.

Eusebio died in January 2014 and, little over a month later, Benfica, Portugal and Mozambique are mourning the passing of another of the game’s greats.

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