The rise and fall of New York’s first superstar soccer team.
Although soccer has largely failed to penetrate the American psyche, British sportswriter Newsham (John Daly, 2003) takes us back to a time in the 1970s when it enjoyed a brief moment in the sun. He begins by sketching out the history of the North American Soccer League (NASL), which was formed in the 1960s. The league drew meager crowds and looked in danger of complete capitulation until Warner Bros. and its garrulous chairman, Steve Ross, took an interest. Ross helped form the New York Cosmos, a team he believed would catapult the sport into the nation’s hearts. The 1975 signing of Brazilian Pelé, the world’s greatest player, was Ross’s statement of intent, and the crowds soon flocked to see the Cosmos play. Other players of a similar stature followed Pelé to the team, most notably the rambunctious Italian Georgio Chinaglia, but the dream was to be short-lived. Pelé’s retirement, after a glorious Cosmos victory over Seattle brought them the 1977 NASL championship, signaled a downturn in both the club’s and the league’s fortunes, leading to the NASL’s ultimate dismantling. Newsham paints a vivid picture of the Cosmos players as they ascended to unexpected heights. Tales of drug-fuelled excess and nonstop partying at New York’s Studio 54 paralleled the kind of debauchery enjoyed by the era’s most decadent rock stars. Indeed, Mick Jagger was one of the many celebrities Steve Ross enticed to the Cosmos’ adopted home at Giants Stadium to see the team play. The author’s attempts to align the Cosmos’ achievements with other significant events of the ’70s—Elvis Presley’s untimely demise, the Son of Sam murders, the New York blackout of 1977—are fleeting and wholly unnecessary. It’s his incontrovertible love of the game, the team and all the hoopla surrounding the Cosmos that make this story compelling.
A detailed and thoughtful account for enthusiasts of the sport.