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Soccer World Cup-winning England goalkeeper Gordon Banks dies at 81

In this Thursday March 4, 2004 file photo Brazilian soccer legend Pele, right, presents former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks with a photograph showing Banks saving a header from Pele in the 1970 World Cup, at a press conference in London, to mark FIFA's 100 year anniversary. English soccer club Stoke said Tuesday Feb. 12, 2019 that World Cup-winning England goalkeeper Gordon Banks has died at 81. (AP Photo/Max Nash, File)

MAX NASH/The Associated Press

Gordon Banks, the World Cup-winning England goalkeeper who was also known for blocking a shot from Pele that many consider to be the greatest save in soccer history, has died. He was 81.

English soccer club Stoke, one of Banks’ former teams, posted a statement from his family on Twitter on Tuesday.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight,” the statement on Twitter said. “We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him.”

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No cause of death was given.

Known for his reflexes, Banks was one of English soccer’s most revered players after helping the team win the 1966 World Cup on home soil. He conceded only one goal in five games before England beat West Germany 4-2 in the final at Wembley Stadium.

Four years later at the next World Cup in Mexico, Banks scurried across his line and dived to his right in an attempt to stop a downward header from Pele. Banks managed to reach the low ball his right hand and scoop it over the crossbar.

“Pele actually shouted ‘Goal’ as he headed it,” Banks later said.

The England team Twitter account posted a video of the save on Tuesday.

“As well as helping the #ThreeLions to glory in 1966, Gordon will be remembered for THAT save against Brazil four years later. A true England legend,” the England team wrote alongside the video.

Brazil eventually won that group game 1-0 and then went on to win its third World Cup title.

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Banks had played in 73 internationals when he was forced to retire in 1972, at the age of 35, after losing the sight in his right eye in a car accident. He lost one of his kidneys to cancer in 2005 and revealed in 2015 that he was facing another battle against cancer.

“If I could make a save like the one against Pele, while playing against the greatest in the world, then I will be able to battle through this health problem,” Banks said then.

“Banksie,” as he was known, started his club career at Chesterfield before spells with Leicester (1959-67) and Stoke (1967-73) in the top division of English soccer.

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