Forgotten Cosmos Look To Compete In The Big Apple
All good things need to have a start, and the New York Cosmos didn’t just rise up out of the fog of New York City as we continue our look at the shape of the game in the States.
In 1971, the Ertegun Brothers, Ahmet and Nesuhi approached Warner Communications President Steve Ross about starting up another football club in New York.
Yeah, the New York Generals had already failed, however, just like everything else about New York City you just keep trying.
After all, how many of the non-big four sport teams have gone through the city? Heck, how many baseball teams have they had in the last hundred years? I rest my case.
So the club was formed with Clive Toye, the former Baltimore Bays general manager, being drafted in to get the team up and running. Toye, born in Plymouth, England trained as a journalist and became the Chief Sports Writer at the Daily Express. He was too well aware that he would have to find a coach who knew what he was doing. Where did he go? To someone he knew well from Baltimore – Gordon Bradley, a former Generals player, and former youth player at Sunderland and made over a hundred appearances for Carlisle United before moving to North America.
In a city like New York, you need to have star players, otherwise you will not get any kind of publicity. As much as the media is big in today’s climate, there was still even in that limited scope of what the media was in that era, you still needed names.
Keep in mind that it is a city that is the home of the famous New York Yankees with all their star names, just like Reggie Jackson. With Steve Ross and Warner behind them, Clive and Gordon could go out and find top talent.
That one player to bring to the Cosmos? Only a Brazilian by the name of Pele, you may have heard of him?
So, he goes pulls out all the stops to bring Pele to town, with a little help from the former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. That’s not the crazy part of the Cosmos though and the old North American Soccer League (NASL). Remember, this was a league that George Best played in, and he wasn’t even the strangest part of the old league.
This was all done without a major television network. Sure, there were games on local television stations and a small regional networks like the Eastern Sports Network. Yes, I’m talking about ESPN, but at the time, it was just a regional network.
What this proves is that people are influenced by the past in the sport. Try as they might to reinvent the wheel and be revolutionary, everything in the sport is based on what happened in the past. That is what is so key about the Cosmos and what the NASL showed. Take these top players, and watch the success and money roll in.
There is a general thesis of the work – if you can bring in talent, the money and the fans will come. No-one other than the NASL and the Cosmos showed this more. However, this was not a new idea, just bigger, more expensive and on a bigger scale than the old Bethlehem Steel teams.
The movie Once in a Lifetime, shows what the NASL would do to get anyone to join. Fuelled by the Cosmos using Warner Communication’s money, prestige and aircraft, players came from all over the world. The rest of the footballing world took notice of the crowds, and the media exposure.
Okay, I’ll concede the point that the American media dropped the ball (pun intended), but for a short period of time in major markets you could not walk around in the sports community without hearing about your local club. Part of the appeal was people finally having extra spending income to burn, so there was a chance that people would go out and support another league, and more teams.
The Cosmos won the championship five times in the classic era – 1972, 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1982. Some of the top players to have played for the Cosmos were – Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, Roberto Cabanas, Giorgio Chinaglia, Johan Neeskens, Pele, and Dennis Tueart. The Cosmos went away, just like the NASL did in 1985. But this wasn’t the last you’d see of them. The Cosmsos ran camps for years in the Tri State area, and in 2010, when the NASL made its longa waited return, the New York Cosmos were brought back too.
At first, they were nothing more than a clothing line, or just a barnstorming team. Former Leeds and Manchester United striker Eric Cantona was named Director of Soccer. He even managed the club during the Paul Scholes testimonial at Old Trafford in August 2011.
Eventually, Seamus O’Brien, took over, flirted with an entry into MLS, and settled on NASL. Since their return, the Cosmos have won three league titles (Soccer Bowl 2013, 2015,2016). At the end of 2016, it was reported that the Cosmos had lost upwords of $30million, and had to layoff all of the playing, managerial and backroom staff. Fortunately for them, Rocco B. Comissio took over the club before the year was out and they were able to go on.
They will no doubt cast an envious eye on the two teams they have to compete against in their City in the shape of the Red Bulls and City. Only time will tell if they can get themselves into the top level of football in the USA but with recent news that they offered Italian Francesco Totti a contract suggests that it will not be for the want of trying.