Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Footballers Renaissance

It goes without saying that soccer is by far the worlds most popular sport. The pastime of many nations has more than its fair share of stars, living and past, to call it's own. To name a few: Argentina has Maradona, France has Zidane, England has Beckham, and Brazil has Pele. All of these living legends have changed the face of their sport and country to an extent which they may never live to realize. One of these men however, has significantly effected yet another country over 4,500 miles from his home.

As most sports fans know, football caught on early in Europe and Africa. It then trickled into Asia and Australia, where it further deepened its foundation as an athletic power house. All was good and well in the land of the 90 minute game, until North America decided it was time to take a legitimate crack at establishing its own professional league in the late 1960's. This league, the North American Soccer League (NASL), opened it's offices in 1968. The NASL was founded as a merger of two previously unsuccessful and non-prosperous leagues established earlier in the decade. Arguably, the eventual face of the new NASL was the New York franchise which would shortly arrive one the scene. 

Following the first three seasons of play in the NASL, the New York Cosmos had arrived. The Cosmos, shortened from the Cosmopolitans, were named after the multicultural environment in which the clubs fan base thrived. Accordingly, the club drew many fans of all creeds, finding itself as one of the most successful franchises in the league, financially and performance wise. Before the club garnered the affection of the locals, upper management realized they needed a star to ascend the ranks of the league. Accordingly, they pursued the notable yet aging star of the Brazilian league, Pele. This acquisition in 1975 meant one thing, New York was now on the map as a soccer town. 

Although only appearing in barely over 60 games for the Cosmos, Pele had created a passion and more importantly a culture for American Soccer. With the additions of other stars such as Italian Giorgio Chinaglia and German Franz Beckenbauer, the Cosmos completed their time in the NASL winning league championships in 5 of the 14 seasons in which they competed. Soccer was certainly thriving in New York, however nationally it seemed as though things has taken a turn for the worst. The NASL seized operations following the 1984 season due to lack of financial support. 

After a decade of silence on the Western front, a new league would take form. The MLS began operations in 1993. Fans and franchises came and went year in and year out, as did the visiting stars of the world. Although making a serious effort, the new league faced adversity sticking as a popular aspect of North American culture. Fifteen-plus years into their existence, things have recently taken a promising turn for the league, as they now have a consistent ESPN game of the week contract, and have grown to nearly 20 clubs. The more notable news is that New York has been awarded a second franchise, in addition to the Red Bull who play in New Jersey. The newly resurrected Cosmos brand has thrown it's name into the proverbial hat of contention to be that second club, but no word has been given on the
leagues decision.

As you can see by the fitteds above, the area is clearly ambitious about the whispers we've all been hearing. I found these gems at Cap City, a hat store in West New York, New Jersey. It certainly has many of us amateur sports historians giddy, so to say. To this writer, the return of a legendary franchise such as the Cosmos would be an amazing feat to behold. It would be the most anticipated return of a professional sports club to the area, short of the hallucinated voyage back East of the Dodgers or Giants. 

Whether it materializes or doesn't, one thing is for certain. The city would certainly appreciate the fraternization of culture and creed once more. For an are where people are being killed over Nike Air Jordans, it would certainly be eye opening to see some unity.  

1 comment: said...

My favorite team growing up. I am dating myself but I used to go see them play when I was a kid. Great caps!