THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A brief guide to football in New York, told by Jack Bell

1626 Dutchman Peter Minuit plunks down $24 in trinkets and baubles and backs his group of settlers against a disorganised band of local Reckagawawanc Indians for the island of Manna-Hatta. It is a precursor to Holland’s Total Football, known locally as Total Rip-off.

1926 Soccer at a baseball stadium called the Polo Grounds. Only in America. An outfit called the American Soccer League sends an “all-star” team against the Jewish club, Hakoah Vienna. The Americans win 3-0 and attract 46,000 fans, even though the game is played on the Jewish sabbath.

1952 The first professional games are televised, with the inaugural match at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Fans stay home, but not to watch the games.

1958 Hearts and Manchester City get together for the ultimate “away” match at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, home to the Dodgers baseball team until they moved to Los Angeles. City win 6-5 in the rain.

1965 Pelé comes to the US as Santos beat Benfica 4-0 before 25,000 fans at crumbling Downing Stadium.

1970
The North American Soccer League commissioner, Welshman Phil Woosnam, bumps into soccer-crazed Nesuhi Ertegun, of Atlantic Records and Warner Communications, at a cocktail party. The Cosmos are formed a year later.

1975-84 Spend, spend, spend as Pelé joins the team. It soon reflects the melting-pot city it won’t call home (its chiefs never referred to the “New York” Cosmos). Franz Beckenbauer follows in 1977, joining Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia. Mick Jagger and Roger Daltry pop into the locker room. Sold out stadiums. Soccer in the US is proclaimed the sport of the Eighties. Nineties? Guess again. NASL folds.

1994
Italy v Ireland in the seething cauldron of Giants Stadium – a late addition after World Cup organisers are cajoled by FIFA to include a New York stop on the gravy train.

1996 Financial success of the World Cup begets Major League Soccer – a beast called a single-entity league where the league owns the player contracts and caps the payroll. “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to play.” Mediocrity for the new millennium.

1999
The US women’s team begins its march towards the World Cup by beating Denmark 3-0 in the swamplands known as the Meadowlands. Also in the bog, the woeful MetroStars and coach Bora Milutinovic (the fifth in four years) plod through a soul-destroying MLS season. In four years, the MetroStars have gone through 78 players. Their latest defeat, v San Jose, was the 11th in a row, a league record.

From WSC 152 October 1999. What was happening this month

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