Gordon Banks on his famous Pelé save: ‘I didn’t even realise I’d made it’ | Football
That save from Pelé’s header was the best I ever made. I didn’t have any idea how famous it would become – to start with, I didn’t even realise I’d made it at all. I heard Pelé shout ‘goal’ as he headed it, which was followed by a massive, almost deafening, roar. Even though I’d got a hand to it, I thought he must have scored.
Then I realised the crowd were cheering for me. I couldn’t believe it. Bobby Moore came over and ruffled my hair – I like to tell people that he was having a go at me for not holding on to it! After all, our match against Brazil was still at 0-0 and we had a corner to defend. As I got to my feet I tried to look as nonchalant as possible, as if to say that I make that sort of save all the time.
Not a day goes by when I don’t get asked about it. Carlos Alberto played an incredible pass with the outside of his boot, into the stride of Jairzinho. He collected it and managed to get inside our full-back, Terry Cooper. I was positioned at the near post, a yard off my line, anticipating the cross. Bobby Moore moved to cover for Cooper, which left Tostão unmarked and Rivelino at the far post. Jairzinho ignored them both, imagine that, and picked out Pelé, who was racing into the box. It was quite a sight. As he rose to head the ball I started moving across my line. This was where my training paid off.
I had worked hard prior to the 1970 World Cup. The heat and humidity in Mexico meant the ball moved around in the air and the pitches were extremely hard, so any ball bouncing in front of you was nasty. I knew his header was going to bounce quite high, so I not only flung myself down, but slightly backwards, to account for the bounce. I managed to get my fingertips to the ball and it went straight up into the air and over the bar.
That save is what I’ll always be remembered for, even though I won the World Cup in 1966. I don’t mind, I enjoy talking about it because that Brazil team is the greatest to ever play the game. I’ve met Pelé several times since that day and he always mentions that save and gives me an affectionate hug and a smile.