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Pele recalls fond memories of Cosmos-Strikers ahead of Saturday’s clash

PeleNYCosmos1 (Getty)


August 14, 1977 is an unforgettable day in the history of American soccer.

On that day, a record crowd of 77,691 showed up to Giants Stadium to watch Pele, Franz Beckenbaur, and the New York Cosmos take on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the opening match of the North American Soccer League’s conference semifinal round of the playoffs. The Cosmos won that match, 8-3, and went on to win the Soccer Bowl in Pele’s last season with the club.

To witness a crowd of that size and stature in the United States was a “fantastic” day for Pele and the Cosmos.

“The crowd was one of the biggest in the history of soccer (in America),” Pele said in a conference call on Monday. “In Brazil, we have Santos, an international team, but I think we never get the median of the capacity that we used to get with the Cosmos. That day, the stadium was full. It’s amazing, it’s very good when you play when the stadium is full, when the people are there, it makes you feel more excited for the game.

“I’m never going to forget that day.”

Fast-forward to Saturday, the Cosmos and Strikers will renew acquaintances for the second time this season. The first time around was the Cosmos first match as a professional franchise since folding in 1985, and saw the hosts open the fall NASL season on a high with a 2-1 victory, thanks to a late Alessandro Noselli goal.

Talking about the rivalry between the Strikers and Cosmos back in the 1970s, Pele said he was pleased that the two teams are playing once more, after 30 years of inactivity, though he’s still going to be rooting for his former club.

“When I came here (to New York), we used to talk a lot about the Strikers and we used to talk about the players,” recalled the Cosmos honorary president. “I hope everything goes okay (on Saturday), that the Cosmos have luck and win the game.”

While Pele did admit that he’s disappointed that it’s much tougher now for NASL clubs to attract big-name players in Europe and South America than it was when he played for the Cosmos, he had plenty of praise for compatriot and fellow Cosmos player, Marcos Senna.

Senna, 37, spurned a number of offers, including ones from Major League Soccer clubs, to sign this summer with the Cosmos, and has started all seven matches the team has played in central midfield, scoring two goals. His performances made their mark on Brazil’s greatest soccer talent, as Pele said that at a recent meeting with Senna in New York, Pele jokingly tried to recruit him to play for Santos in Brazil.

“Marcos Senna was a big surprise for all Brazilians because he appeared to play excellent here for the Cosmos,” said Pele. “I met him two months ago and we had a get together in New York, and I said ‘Hey Marcos, why don’t you play with my team Santos,’ because he’s an excellent player and I like him.”

In all, Pele applauded the growth of soccer in the USA, how it’s played all the way from kids through high schools and universities, and even commending the U.S. Women’s National Team for being the top team in women’s international soccer.

Though the U.S. Men’s National Team still has a ways to go to catch up to the likes of Spain and Brazil, Pele was confident that soccer in this country will continue to improve.

“We have a lot of countries, like Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, they all have the same level of soccer as in the United States,” Pele stated. “Mexico, who has an experienced team, didn’t qualify (yet), and the American team qualified.

“To talk about the quality of the sport and the strength of the United States, there is no doubt.”


  1. I didn’t fully understand how many Cosmos haters were out there until reading these comments. I love supporting the Cosmos despite the fact that they are a lower division side. Also, “steve”, if you have never heard of Marcos Senna then you clearly know nothing about the sport. The one thing you can take away from all these comments is that wether you love them or hate them, the Cosmos matter because you are all spending time arguing about them. If they can continue to grow and be successful and perhaps get the bid for the stadium at belmont, along with NYCFC coming in a couple of years, it will be a lot of fun having three new york teams that you can either support or hate. We should be the capital of US soccer no matte what club you support

  2. How many more times will Hempstead Cosmos trot this guy out. We get it. He played a few games for this team 40 years ago back when they were at least relevant. And with all due respect, we are not at the same level as Bolivia. Give us a bit of credit Pele! Maybe Pele still thinks Hempstead Cosmos is the pinnacle of American soccer.

  3. First place at the midway point. Lead NASL in attendance. Doing all this as a first year franchise and without a legitimate goalscorer. Strikers game will be big as the Cosmos need a statement win on the road and put some distance between themselves and the competition in the final half of the year.

    Would like to see more Henry Lopez, kid has a nose for goal and is fearless.

    • Personally, i love the responses to Cosmos articles, it really shows the outward hateraide of local fans here. They so desperately want the Cosmos to be regulated to typical back page status like a div 2 club should be..get over it..people are interested in the Comsos….it gets plenty of hits on SBI. God forbid Ives covers actual local soccer at all levels and carries stories on a team a lot of people want to stay current with.

    • Already playing to a more than half empty stadium. And by “stadium” I mean some small college ground on the side of a highway in Long Island. There would be not “haterade” were it not for the Cosmos fans saying this clown club was too big for MLS when in reality they were desperate to get in.

  4. I wish them no ill will – certainly nothing wrong with a minor league franchise toiling along. People only hate on the franchise because so many of the supporters sound like such boobs, pretending to be fanatics and writing ridiculous stuff like “Cosmos til I die!” as if they didn’t play their first match 3 weeks ago. Talking big about winning the US Open Cup (nope) or the CONCACAF Champions Leauge (nope). Even their stadium proposal is clownishness – it’s nothing more than a conceptual drawing and an executive summary that went to the state for some limited economic development funds that they’re definitely not going to get – yet I keep reading how their stadium is going to be world class and rival anything MLS can produce. A poster named Leo was on that other thread talking about how Europeans can’t stop talking about the Cosmos. Lol no one in Europe cares; barely anyone in NYC cares or has even heard of this franchise. Anyway, I have to admit I do enjoy reading the Cosmos threads, but mostly because I find the comments like Joey’s below hilarious, and even funnier the knee jerk defensive response from the Cosmos diehards. The team may succeed and become a decent NASL franchise (for what that’s worth), but more likely the Cosmos will fold within three years.

    • Where to start

      Man, I appreciate your honesty but I have to correct you in a few areas. Firstly, you see plenty of people saying “Orlando til I die” as well as just about every team in MLS. The difference between the Cosmos and them is that there are many fans who were fans in the 80’s, many who haven’t truly followed a team until now. There is nothing wrong with committing yourself to a team, the city is massive and there’s only one other option right now.

      Secondly, I’m sorry if this sounds rude but you clearly have no idea what’s going on with the stadium proposal. It went to Empire State Development to seek approval for a bid that will be entirely privately funded. Also, I hate to burst your bubble, but the rumor mill is churning that the Cosmos have the strongest bid and that an approval is imminent.

      This team is literally doing everything right, they are winning on the field, they are VERY involved in the community, and they’re using their rich history and name to stir interest all over New York, especially in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island.

      I respect your opinion, but I think you’ll be seeing more of the Cosmos.

      • We heard that it was imminent months ago and noting has happened. So you are a liar. Also what interest are they creating? They are totally ignored by the media except for Ives. People realized they weren’t in MLS and bailed

        That is why they went from 10,000 to somewhere in the 5,000 range in two games. They are a joke.

    • I didn’t say Europeans can’t stop talking about Cosmos, I said WHEN US football is discussed then it’s the Cosmos that is the talk…..

      Anyway I can’t understand the rivalry between MLS supporters and Cosmos, it seems to me like people are more interested making that rivalry a fight than instead focus on what is best for US football. There is nothing that says a succesfull Cosmos and NASL can’t co-exist with a succesfull MLS. On contrary succes for both would mean that US football will develop even better than what it is now…

      In my view to many of you are more interessted in that the rival team or league should fail, than see how it woul dbenefit US soccer if both succeed. If you ever want to become a World Cup final contender football in US have to start co-operate more than it does now…

      • You’re wrong. When US football is discussed in Europe (which probably isn’t too often) they are discussing the national team and MLS, not some second division team that plays in a college stadium. That’s like someone saying “when English football is discussed in the US everyone is discussing Rochdale.” They’re not. It’s delusional and silly.

      • LOL, how can a US based opinion maker like you know that I’m wrong. Consider I’m working in the football industry and travelall over Europe 11 monts a year I’m pretty sure I know a bit more than you know about what is the talk around. You see Cosmos in their first period created a legacy that was noticed over here, something no MLS team have been able to do, and when a team with the history Cosmos has, they do create interrest, no matter how much dislike you and the rest of the bunch that don’t understand that a succesful Cosmos would be good for US football….

        Still though one valid point though the national team is being talked more about now than a few years ago. MLS is also sometimes talked about, but then it’s described as a league that let an English club enter a reserve team into it and let people come in and grab their last paycheck……

      • Ummm, who cares about what Europe is talking about ?
        Why would I give even a penny for some guy in Europe to approve, like, care about any soccer in the US ? I wouldn’t.

        The fact is soccer in the US is crushing it right now.
        The Cosmos are moving along upward, just like everyone.

      • You’ve missed the debate here. It is not why you should care. I just had to reply when he with a slowleftarm and maybe more slow stuff told me I was lying.

        The last paragraph in you post is, and that is what it’s all about, and what I posted about in the first place. There is no need for rivalry between the leagues or the teams in the leagues. It’s all about the development in US football. Still though some seem to make it a fight between the leagues, and that is stupid…

      • And your true colors quickly showed through with that last crack on MLS. You are Cosmos fanboy. Nobody in Europe gives a crap about the Cosmos because they have no star players, play in a crappy league, and are less than League Two quality. Stop trying to lie. Pele isn’t scoring goals for them. It is some guy no one in Europe or even MLS fans ever heard of.

      • Bandwagoners ?

        The Sounders drew well in the old NASL, drew well for MLS and championship games in the ALeague/USL, now draw beyond well in MLS.

        We are obnoxious, but not because we have been weak at times….40 years of solid there.

  5. I am trying to wrap my brain around the Cosmos hate out there. Is there something wrong with trying to market your team as well as possible? With trying to sign a few name players? With trying to build a SSS? These are all positive things for soccer in NY and in the USA. Is this because they are thinking of rivaling MLS some day rather than joining it? That sounds like a good ambition to have. Let’s see what a team that has a bit of a name but isn’t saddled with a single-entity structure can do. It may take awhile, but I have a feeling they will be able to re-establish the brand in time. In any event, I love the idea of three legit NY-based pro teams. It’s a soccer city.

    • I think mostly because the site doesn’t cover other nasl teams and there is annoyance at New York due to being given the nyc2 Mls franchise with no stadium plan but other fan bases and Trans are required to have them.

  6. I was at that match as a senior in high school and it was an amazing moment, give it time this country will get It! It’s all about better coaching g at the youth level. Period.

    • The Kardashians are famous because of publicity and marketing. It really doesn’t matter if they are useful to anyone. Many people enjoy them.
      The Cosmos are using publicity and marketing to advance their brand, true. And it’s working. But they are famous because they achieved greatness and have history. Three weeks into the re-boot they are doing very well at playing the game on and off the field. And I enjoy them and I enjoy listening to the Haters whine and complain everyday about a team they say no one cares about. Sharing = Caring and guess what? The Haters are sharing plenty

    • I am not a Cosmos guy, but I think it is cool that 4k are coming out to watch soccer.

      I was one of the 4k for the Sounders for many years. Real fans, not some Man U jersey wearer whining about the quality of US soccer. Now I am one of 40-60k. Same thing. Real fans.


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