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Mário Esteves Coluna born on August 6th 1935 was a Portuguese soccer player who played mainly as a central midfielder. 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 ten national leagues and two European Cups. Coluna represented Portugal at the 1966 World Cup, and earned a total of 57 caps. He was considered one of the best midfielders of his generation, also being viewed as one of the most talented Portuguese players of all time.
Born in Inhaca to a Portuguese father and a Mozambican mother. He was spotted by S.L. Benfica while playing for Desportivo de Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), where he excelled at basketball and track and field. Signed by the Lisbon club in 1954, he started playing as an inside forward, 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 or attacking midfielder by manager Otto Glória, where he put to good use his stamina and strength, adding to this an accurate and powerful long-distance shot and technical skills.
Coluna captained Benfica from 1963 to 1970, in 328 matches. Already at the service of Olympique Lyonnais he was awarded a testimonial match by his main club on 8 December 1970, playing against a UEFA selection that featured the likes of Johan Cruyff, Dragan Džajić, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Luis Suárez or 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 Porto Alegre, acting as a player-coach.
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. The following year, against fellow Spaniards Real Madrid, he netted the 3–3 equalizer and, subsequently, was supposed to take the penalty that resulted in the 4–3 lead (eventual 5–3 triumph), when youngster Eusébio politely asked if he could shoot it instead.
Coluna played 57 times for the Portugal national team, scoring eight goals. His first appearance was in a friendly match with Scotland on 4 May 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.
After Mozambique became independent in 1975, Coluna held the post of President of its Football Federation. He also served as the country’s Minister of Sports, from 1994 to 1999. Coluna died on 25 February 2014 at the age of 78 in Maputo, after not being able to overcome a pulmonary infection
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