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The GOAT is gone. Pelé died Thursday at 82 in his native Brazil.
But not before becoming the finest soccer player who ever lived, and arguably the greatest athlete in history. And one who left a lasting impact not just on world sport, but on New York City’s sportscape as well.
Pelé managed staggering feats like winning three World Cup titles, scoring more than 600 goals for his club team, Santos, and helping to stop a Nigerian civil war with his mere presence. Yet the most unbelievable may have been turning the New York Cosmos into a worldwide phenomenon when he starred for them from 1975-77.
“Today, if you are all over the world … every place in the world you go, they say ‘Pelé, when are the New York Cosmos coming back?’ Sometimes I get a little upset. I played 25 years in Santos, and nobody asks me,’’ Pelé said in 2013. “But I’m proud of that, because we made football — soccer — in the U.S. well-known.”
The NASL club made Pelé the highest-paid athlete in the world (a three-year, $7 million deal, according to a 1975 article in the New York Times announcing the signing), but it was well worth every penny. Forget the goals or assists, or the striker hoisting the 1976 NASL MVP or carrying them to the 1977 Soccer Bowl title. He lifted the Cosmos to worldwide fame.
The Cosmos played before sparse crowds on Randall’s Island the year before Pelé arrived, moving to Yankee Stadium for the 1976 season and the new Giants Stadium in 1977 — often drawing near capacity crowds.
Ten million people watched Pelé’s Cosmos debut on CBS, a record U.S. audience for soccer. Their gate tripled in his first half-season, and by August of his last season they’d set a North American attendance record of 77,691.
The Cosmos attracted other stars on the field such as fellow Brazilian World Cup winner Carlos Alberto, West German captain Frank Beckenbauer and Italian Giorgio Chinaglia. And stars in the stadium’s stands like Robert Redford, Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol — and sometimes in Studio 54, with the glitterati.
“I didn’t believe how big the Cosmos were at that time,” Pelé said years ago. “I am very happy to see football in the United States at the same level as the rest of the world because I started it here.”
How Pelé forever raised popularity of soccer in United States – New York Post
By Sofia MoralesNo Comments2 Mins Read
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