Monday, 20 June 2011

THE NEW YORK COSMOS - A Sleeping Giant: Part 4 of 4

After twenty dormant years, the Cosmos are back. August 5th sees them run out for the first time since their rebirth, on one of the biggest stages in football - Old Trafford. Pele, Chinaglia and Alberto are all back for the party and they're joined by another legend of the modern game...


Major League Soccer will welcome the club with the richest heritage in US soccer in 2013. It's been a long time coming, but America's most famous football team will become the 20th team to join the league in two years time.

G. Peppe Pinton was the original Cosmos' last general manager when the team dissolved in the mid-eighties. Up until now, he'd fiercely guarded the naming rights for the club, worrying that the MLS would not recognise the success and history of the New York club.

But after MLS teams (such as the San Jose Earthquakes) returned to their NASL-era names, Pinton reconsidered. The rights were then sold to the former Spurs vice-chairman, Paul Kemsley. He managed to put together an impressive group who set about trying to re-establish the Cosmos. This included David Beckham's former personal manager Terry Byrne, and the ex-Liverpool chairman, Rick Parry.


Next on board was the biggest name in the Cosmos' history - Pele. Named as Honourary President in 2010, Pele spoke to The New York Times about his excitement regarding a New York derby: "One day, I hope to be happy to see the New York Cosmos playing the Red Bulls in the championship game."

Two more former heroes soon followed, with Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto taking roles as International Ambassadors.


But the real coup for the Cosmos was in their next big appointment. Convincing the legendary Eric Cantona to return to football.

After leaving Manchester United aged 30 in 1997, Cantona often ventured into the dodgy arenas of TV advertising, film and beach soccer. But it wasn't until the offer came from New York that The King (as United fans once knew him) would return to the beautiful game as their Director of Football.

"I liked the project. I have a strong image of this club, that it was something special in football that was a mixture of everything," he told The New York Times last year. Cantona is not easily pleased. He famously slagged United's style of play off in 2006, calling them boring and functional. Kemsley and co. must have done some convincing to get him on board.

The prospect of Cantona's return to the game, as well as the return of the club itself is bound to excite football fans the world over. But Fox Soccer Channel's Keith Costigan thinks we shouldn't be getting too excited just yet. He tweeted MLS Blighty: "[it] would be good, but management and marketing has to be good. Red Bulls don't exactly draw big crowds, so no guarantee the Cosmos will."

What is guaranteed is that their first game will be a big one. Paul Scholes, the Man United stalwart, has chosen to play against the New York Cosmos for his testimonial match. Cantona will manage the team, and will choose a one-off line-up of players from across Europe. Although the squad itself is not yet assembled, seeing a team under the Cosmos moniker take to the Old Trafford pitch is bound to be a special occasion. The match takes place on August 5, and tickets (£25 each) can be bought from United's official website.

The turbulent story of the New York Cosmos is about to take another turn. Hopefully, the team can continue the work started by the great Steve Ross, and help soccer really kick off in the United States. Monsieur Cantona knows a lot about kicking, after all!

Philip Wright-Lewis

In summary: the return of this 'sleeping giant' has really got us excited. Not only for the rebirth of such an historic club, but for the MLS generally. It should bring attention from across the world, in a more organic way than merely signing a big European name. Moreover, Umbro's new line of Cosmos gear is stunning.

e firmly recommend anyone interested in the Cosmos story watches the incredible documentary film, 'Once in a Lifetime'. It was the major source for this article and is a must for anyone who likes their football.

We hope you have enjoyed this special. Please excuse the long gap between Parts 3 & 4 - I was studying for my finals. Many thanks to Kevin Kirrane for his help.

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