Mario Coluna

089. Mario Coluna

Mário Esteves Coluna was born in 1935 in Lourenço Marqués, Portuguese South-East Africa (now Maputo, capital of Mozambique), and started his career with local club Desportivo. While still a teenager he was spotted by Portuguese giants Benfica and moved to Lisbon in 1954.

Coluna spent sixteen years with Benfica, and was a crucial part of one of the most successful periods in the club's history. In his first year at the club, Benfica won the Portuguese league and cup double, and by May 1955 Coluna was already a Portuguese international, making his debut in a 3-0 defeat against Scotland.

Over the next decade Coluna won a further six league titles and four Portuguese Cups as well as back to back European Cup wins in 1961 and 1962, scoring the winning goal himself in the 1961 final. He would play in three more European Cup finals during the 1960s, but without further success. By 1966 was the captain of the national team as Portugal qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time in their history.

At the World Cup in England, he led the team through to the semi-finals, inspired by the goals of his Benfica team mate Eusebio. The host nation ended their dreams in the semi-final, but Portugal finished a creditable third. Back with Benfica, three more league titles and two more cup wins followed, and by the time Coluna left Benfica in 1970 his total of honours had reached nineteen, including an amazing ten league titles.

After nearly 700 appearances for Benfica, Coluna moved to France to end his career with Olympique Lyonnais. Following his retirement, Coluna went on to work in football administration, serving as President of the football federation in his native Mozambique, and during the 1990s he spent five years as Mozambique's Minister of Sport.

Mario Coluna died in Maputo, Mozambique on 25th February 2014, aged 78

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