The Eusebio legend revealed in new movie "Ruth"

A gr8 footballer...
A gr8 footballer...
By Robert Hackwill
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The prodigy's early days were far from straightforward, and his contested transfer from Mozambique to Portugal became a bitter struggle between rivals Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.


He would belong in most football experts' top 20 players of all time; Eusébio made his name at Benfica in Portugal, but to get there from his native Mozambique, the young prodigy had to use a fake name; "Ruth", during his journey.

That's the title of a new movie telling the extraordinary tale of how politics and football reached a nexus in Portugal in 1960-61.

"This is the first major sports controversy in Portugal and people would rather talk about it than about the gray part of their lives, the oppression that was on the street. Eusébio, therefore, finds himself embroiled in a series of political and social controversies, in the middle of a war between Benfica and Sporting; the mother who actually signed the two contracts, one for Benfica and another for Sporting. That is, Eusébio is almost a passenger in this film and he was always guided by his father, by the butchers of Lourenço Marques, (the old name of Maputo, Mozambique's capital). This film has this very actual side: people are really focused on sports controversies," says director Antonio Pinhao Botelho.

Eusébio heads west just as Portugal's armed forces are heading east as the Salazar fascist dictatorship tried in vain to hold onto its colonies in Africa. It is a dark period, but Eusébio's arrival was hailed by fans as a second coming; a reputed boy wonder footballer no-one had ever seen play.

"Few people know about this story and in fact this movie has only a small part about football. there is not a ball kicked, it's all about the underworld, behind the scenes. But the most important thing in this period, 1960-61, is that it was a terrible year for the fascist regime," adds Pinhao Botelho.

Few films about sport go beyond blind devotion for the celebrity or focussing on the action. "Ruth" looks to be somewhat different, going against the often-heard refrain that politics and sport don't mix. It's an entertaining rollercoaster of blackmail and kidnapping, involving government ministers, delirium in the newspapers and millionaire promises unfolding on two continents.

The film ends when the legend begins: with the first game of Eusébio in Benfica's stadium.

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