You know when you were a kid and you had an item of clothing you thought was the b*llocks and it was amazingly cool? You kind of thing you wanted to wear every day until it was washed out or reduced to threads? My first one was a turquoise Dogtanian jumper. This 5 year old thought he was the nuts, having that dude below on my jumper made me the coolest kid in the nursery playground.
Of course these obsessions always came in phases, but there was one obsession, one ‘brand’ which stuck. A brand that epitomised the cool in football: the New York Cosmos. They were by far and away the coolest football team, even though they didn’t play anymore. They were like a fantasy; a real life team that were now a story or fairy tale (remember the ‘Hurricanes’ cartoon?). I used to look at football magazines and want an all in one NY Cosmos tracksuit. They had a cool badge, they had old-skool legends that played for them; they had it all.
I do have a confession to make. When I was a child I loved everything that was American. The Fresh Prince, the Chicago Bulls, Jolly Ranchers, theme parks, burgers so big you couldn’t eat them, trainers you couldn’t get in this country – in short, the real American dream. The Cosmos were the football version of this, the ‘John Shaft’ if you will of the football world and as I grew older I wanted to learn more about the legend.
Now as a little fella, I could never understand why we had football and America didn’t. I couldn’t get my head round the fact that whenever you saw an American kicking a football around in any Hollywood film (The Karate Kid for example) they just looked wrong in some way, like they were attempting to interact with an unknown object from space. And why on earth did they call it Soccer?? The biggest and best country (behind Britain) didn’t seem to like the biggest and best game in the world & called it a different name to boot! Truly mind boggling! But as I got older I started to read (only took me until about 13yrs old) articles on the old American football league, officially known as the North American Soccer League or ‘NASL’.
The story of the New York Cosmos is an amazing one, a team born out of nothing that ended up recruiting the world’s biggest football players. The original ‘Galacticos’. You can picture being caught up in the hysteria, one of the biggest crazes America has seen since the Jackson 5 and the Jheri Curl. But it didn’t just happen overnight …
The NASL was formed in 1968 and consisted of 19 teams from both the US and Canada. Investors had put a lot of money into the sport, but it had never really taken off. But one man was about to change that. Steve Ross was a 39-year-old big shot. He was the CEO of Warner Communications, but came from more humble beginnings. He was a guy that started with very little, took some risks and got to the top. He once said “if you’re not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business”. He became one of the main advocates of cable TV back in the day, a try visionary.
He had a vision for football in America. He didn’t need the money, but was captivated by the game off the back of the 1966 World Cup. With his background in media he felt he could transform football in America in to something special. So with investor money from Warner he set up the Cosmos. The name was chosen to convey the message that the club was to be the biggest club in New York, which is exactly what it became. The normal attendance at NASL games was about 50 people, but the Cosmos did something to change this.
… Thus concludes Part 1 of our look at the Cosmos. The remainder of the story will be published here at the same time next Monday.