In 1968, the North American Football League (NASL) was formed in the United States. This event coincided with a significant surge in American interest in European football, the Socker. Attention to the sport that was never popular in the country was explained by the influence of the World Cup in England. The first season of NASL was attended by 17 teams.
And in 1970, the founders of the record company Atlantic Records brothers Ahmed and Nesuhi Ertegyun established the New York Cosmos club. The name of the team meant "cosmopolitan" or "citizens of the world." The colors of the Brazilian flag were chosen as symbolism: in 1970, representatives of this particular country masterly won the world championship and were considered to be football trendsetters.
Why the cosmos? The boss said, "You can go to Spain, to Italy, and win a title, but you can come to the Cosmos and win a country." // Por que o Cosmos? O chefe disse, "Você pode ir para a Espanha ou Itália e ganhar um título. Mas você pode vir para o Cosmos e ganhar um país." pic.twitter.com/LSdNATiKGc- Pelé (@Pele) February 13, 2019
"Cosmos" was destined to become one of the strongest and most attractive teams of NASL. Just a few years after the creation of the club, the Ertegun brothers managed to lure the legendary performers - Brazilian Pele and German Franz Beckenbauer to New York. They became the main stars of both their team and the entire league, the presence of which alone increased their reputation throughout the world.
It is significant that the 36-year-old Pele was recognized as the best NASL player in 1976, and the 32-year-old Beckenbauer in 1977. Many aging stars followed suit and flew to North America to "earn some money." They entered into short-term contracts and then returned to Europe. Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller and George Best managed to showcase their talents at various clubs across the Atlantic Ocean. But it was the great Brazilian striker who set the fashion for socker. This was followed by others.
Some sources claim that the leaders of "Cosmos" from the very beginning set out to invite Pele. The club was funded by President Warner Bros. Steve Ross Its capabilities made it possible to crank up a deal fantastic at the time.
Moreover, in 1974, the three-time world champion said goodbye to football and planned to devote himself entirely to business. Pele himself recalled in his memoirs that by then he had acquired property in Santos, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities of Brazil.
“I owned shops, residential buildings, land. I bought a dairy farm, I had a trucking business, an export-import office. Even the radio station. In general, heaven alone knew what else I was involved in, ”he admitted.
However, the immersion in the world of business turned out to be not too successful for a football player. One of the tire manufacturers Pele worked with was burnt out and went bankrupt. The bank demanded that the Brazilian cover financial losses. In total, Pele had to repay a loan and a fine worth more than $ 1 million.
He several times rejected the proposals of the Cosmos, but financial difficulties partly forced him to respond with consent and resume his career. At the same time, few were aware of the veteran’s true motives that prompted him to perform in the United States. He himself evasively said that he wanted to show the Americans "this game, and they will decide whether they love it or not."
According to the Brazilian, club bosses told him: “You can go to Spain or Italy and win the title, but only in Cosmos you will conquer the whole country.”
Pele's salary in Cosmos was $ 1.4 million per year. This money was enough to pay off debts. The Brazilian has become the highest paid athlete on the planet. It is believed that thanks to Pele, attendance at Cosmos matches has grown tenfold. So, if in the first seasons about four thousand spectators gathered at the stadiums, then after Pele's arrival, the meetings of the team were watched by an average of 10,000 people each. In the late 1970s, the number of fans at the games of the New York team even increased to 46-47 thousand.
In his debut season, however, Pele reached Cosmos only to third place in the standings. As a result, the owners of the club made a substitution on the coaching bridge: instead of the Englishman Gordon Bradley, his compatriot Ken Ferfy was appointed. However, in 1976, Cosmos flew into the playoffs. Pele managed to win the championship title only on the third attempt - in 1977, when the team moved to the spacious Giant stadium in New Jersey, and Bradley returned to the position of mentor.
With this trophy, the Brazilian crowned his outstanding career. In total, he scored 37 goals for Cosmos and made 25 assists in 64 matches. On October 1 of the same year, Pele held a farewell match, half-time playing for Cosmos and Santos and hitting the goal of a Brazilian club with a free-kick. This fight ended with the score 1: 1 and became for Pele the 1363rd in his career. In his asset - 1281 goals.
“This farewell is the greatest and saddest day of my life. Alas, you cannot play football endlessly, someday you need to stop. And since I cannot start my life from the beginning, I prefer to say: “Goodbye,” Pele said at the final press conference.
The New Yorkers have forever assigned the tenth game number to the King of Football. However, the history of the team after a loud take-off did not last long. Cosmos ceased operations and was disbanded in 1985. Over the 14 years of its existence, the club has won the NASL championship five times, and also won other prizes.
In 2010, Pele revived the New York Cosmos. Famous European football players passed through the new club. Among them - the former Juventus striker, Brazilian Amauri and Russian with an American passport, Yevgeny Starikov. In 2013, 2015 and 2016, Cosmos won the re-created NASL, considered the second-highest division after MLS. However, in recent years, the league was not held. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was assumed that the next restart of the NASL would be given in the fall of 2020, and Cosmos would take part in the tournament.