Pelé: Brazilian’s final hurrah at New York Cosmos helped spark ‘sporting revolution’
He had won three World Cups, scored many goals and become a global icon, but Pele wasn’t quite done yet, so he went to the US and helped transform the sport of football in North America.
Convinced to retire, the Brazilian great signed for the New York Cosmos in 1975 for three more seasons.
Pelé had seemingly played his last professional match, months before joining the North American Soccer League (NASL), and hung up his boots after making 638 appearances for his boyhood club Santos.
It was almost inconceivable that Pelé would ever play for any club other than Santos, but midway through the 1975 season he joined the Cosmos on a Despite a $1.67 million a year contract football was struggling to generate much interest in North America at the time.
Pelé came, saw and conquered and by then”O Rei’ (“The King”) left in 1977, he was a NASL champion who had contributed to a football boom.
“During three seasons with the Cosmos, Pele has helped transform the domestic landscape of football,” the Cosmos said in a statement. rack after his death this week.
“Where there were once baseball diamonds, there were now football fields.
“The Cosmos and their king not only started a sporting revolution in America, they also traveled the world spreading the gospel of the beautiful game.”
Even now, after nearly 50 years, Pelé’s influence can still be felt in both the men’s and women’s games in North America.
His move to Cosmos paved the way for other greats such as Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer to follow suit and although the NASL eventually folded in 1984, it set a blueprint for Major League Soccer (MLS) when it was founded in 1993 .
Superstars such as David Beckham, Gareth Bale, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have all followed in Pelé’s footsteps in growing the sport in North America by playing in the MLS.
Soccer in the US is now booming, with the US National Men’s Team making an impact at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Scouts from around the world now look to North America to discover new talent, with the sport embedded in the fabric of society and passed down naturally from generation to generation.
Much of the early work was done in the 1970s thanks to Pelé’s natural ability and infectious smile.
CNN’s Don Riddell spoke to supporters about Pele during Qatar 2022, with one American saying the legend changed his life.
“It was the first professional match I ever saw in 1975 and that’s why this is one of the reasons why this is my 11th World Cup,” Clifton Broumand told CNN.
“When I looked at him and his ability, I came to watch football and the World Cup.”
In the season before Pelé joined Santos in 1975, the Cosmos’ largest attendance for a game was just over 8,000 people.
During his final and most successful season in 1977, the average crowd for home games was 42,689, three times with attendances exceeding 70,000, according to the Association for American Football History.
When Pelé joined the Cosmos, he was 34 years old and scored a total of 37 goals in 64 NASL games.
“Pelé’s decision to bring his artistry to the United States with the New York Cosmos in the 1970s was a transformative moment for the sport in this country,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.
“While Pele captivated fans in the US and Canada, it demonstrated the power of the game and the limitless possibilities for the sport.”
The Cosmos’ first general manager, Clive Toye, played a key role in persuading the sport’s then-biggest superstar to join the Cosmos.
Toye, a former journalist heavily involved in the formation of the NASL, had a vision for the future of football in the US and believed that Pelé was the man to make that dream come true.
However, Toye and the Cosmos faced stiff opposition from around the world for Pelé’s signature.
There was even heavy political intervention, with Pelé proverb then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had helped him join the Cosmos.
“At that time I had many proposals to play in England, Italy, Spain and Mexico, but I said no. After 18 years I want to rest, because I’m retiring,” Pele said CNN in 2011.
“Then the proposal came up to go to New York because they want to make football big in the United States. That was the reason. I have started my mission.’
Suddenly it was cool to watch football.
Matches were broadcast worldwide and the star-studded Cosmos team was the hottest ticket in town. The Comsos and Pelé even started touring the world.
“Wherever we went, all over the world, Asia, Australia, Europe, all they wanted was Pele,” former Cosmos player Dennis Tueart, who was signed to replace Pele, said, although he played some test matches with the Brazilian star. Sky Sports.
“He had extraordinary eyesight, extraordinary athleticism […] he was without a doubt, in my opinion, the best.”
Pelé still has a presence in New York City. Opened in 2019, the ‘Pelé Soccer’ store is located in the iconic Times Square, a location many fans flocked to following the news of his death.
After the Cosmos won the NASL title in 1977, a farewell match against Pelé’s former team Santos was arranged, with the Brazilian playing half for both sides in what would be his last official game.
After the testimony, he addressed more than 70,000 people at a packed Giants Stadium in New York, leading the crowd in a chant of “Love, love, love.”
A fitting end perhaps for a man who spread joy wherever he went and who helped establish football as a way of life in North America.