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Friday, January 27, 2023

Soccer in the United States owes almost everything to Pele

At the edge of the field of synthetic turf, where the youngsters in his academy train, Smith lovingly contemplates a giant poster – he doesn’t remember which New York Cosmos game it is, nor whether it’s from 1976 or 1977 – in which Pele appears, and he, the keeper, raises his arms to heaven, celebrating a goal.

Smith, a professional player in Philadelphia in the 1970s, signed with the Cosmos in 1976 for $100,000. The Brazilian giant signed for at least $1 million a year ago, a move that brought him out of semi-retirement at the age of 34. Pele won the New York club the title in 1977, scoring 31 goals in 56 games.

A decade younger than the Brazilian star, Smith has been a complete “fan” of Pele since childhood: “I couldn’t believe I was going to play with him,” laughs Bobby, 70.

“like children”

After American goalkeeper Bob Rigby signed with Smith, Pele brought in Italian Giorgio Chinaglia, German “Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer and Brazilian Carlos Alberto to the Cosmos.

“Every day, we were almost like little kids around him,” says the former professional player, moved to tears by a beautiful photo of Pele’s last game in late 1977, in which he lovingly caresses the cheek of a fascinated Smith .

“So warm and humble”, “putting his ego aside”, Edson Arantes do Nascimento “was a great teammate who looked after all his teammates and no, he wasn’t just a superstar”, Smith was impressive. The context confirms the record of Pelé, the only player in history to have won three World Cups (1958, 1962, 1970).

World icon When he hung up his boots during a friendly match between the Cosmos and his former Brazilian club, Santos, at Giants Stadium in New York in October 1977, the perennial Brazilian number 10 was also the “biggest influence” on the rise of “soccer”. In the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, Smith says.

He “legalized” soccer in the United States

“Bringing him here gave a lot of legitimacy to the game. People wanted to see him. He was playing in New York in front of 70,000 people and he brought all these stars,” recalled Smith, referring to European champions Johan Cruyff, Bobby Moore We do. and Jorge Best, who arrived in the American League attracted by the Brazilians.

Smith said, “Without Pelé we wouldn’t have a national program here. We would have been behind year after year (…) his “vision” of the game.

Will American Football Use a New Pele? A question to which the former Santos player’s former teammate and ‘Canarinha’ answers strongly.

“It is important that a country like ours develops its American players. We needed Beckenbauer, Alberto, Best, but now we are in our development, our team has done much better in this World Cup” Four from Qatar Year away World Cup in USA, Canada and Mexico.

World Nation News Desk
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