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Jack Huckel


TANGENTS

Giorgio Chinaglia – The Biggest Personality

Written by on May 3, 2012 | 9 Comments »
Posted in General, History and Books

The North American Soccer league imported many players in the 70s who were among the best in the world; Pele, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, George Best, Gerd Mueller,  my personal favorite, Patrick ‘Ace” Ntsoelengoe, and others who were World Cup Champions, European Champions, Copa Libertadores champions.

But perhaps none was a bigger personality or longer lasting on the American stage than Giorgio. The outspoken Italian  began his professional soccer life in Wales, before returning to Italy and Lazio, the Italian National Team and the 1974 World Cup, and then, concluding one illustrious and controversial career and beginning another with the New York Cosmos.

In recent times Giorgio combined with Charlie Stillitano, who grew up in the shadow of Giants Stadium and the awesomeness of the Cosmos aura, to present an international soccer talk and call-in show in the United States on SiriusXM. Giorgio, as always, was more than willing to share his unfettered opinions on a range of subjects across the soccer world.

His endless supply of anecdotes from the past and observations on the present were always interesting, often caused debate, and always were good listening. “Let’s be honest” or “I’ll be honest” were his common refrains and his commentary was unblinkingly so!

Perhaps it is the Giorgios of the sports world our sport is missing. The major sports all have their respective “shock jocks” on various media platforms across the country. There is no lack of pontification about the NFL or college football, the NBA or college basketball, or Major League Baseball.

Was Giorgio providing a service, albeit with limited market penetration, that we demonstrably need? Eric Wynalda of Fox Soccer Channel and Alexi Lalas of ESPN have skirted along the margins of controversy (well Eric has a little more than skirted) but neither has consistently invoked the ire and reaction among fans and pros alike that Giorgio did.

So I wonder if we need the next Giorgio to step up and, we, the fans of the greatest game, need to clamor for someone we can debate, disagree with, detest or love, or more than simply listen to on a major media outlet. Anyone listening?

Another sad note: One of the Cosmos top newsman/reporters, Ike Kuhns, passed away recently as well. Ike was awarded the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum’s Colin Jose Media Award in 2008. He was popular and highly regarded by both his peers and the general public. Among his many possessions at the time of his honor was an impressive and highly valued collection of World Series programs. 

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9 responses to “Giorgio Chinaglia – The Biggest Personality”

  1. Ed Gomes says:

    I can’t speak too much to Giorgio and his legacy.
    I’ve met people that new him personally and despised him and others that liked him. Love would have been too strong a word..
    I did listen to him on Sirius a few times and it was a blast. He made some outrageous comments, but had some great stories to share.

    As for you mentioning Lalas and Wynalda as controversial pundits, I beg to differ. It’s one thing to make statements and be wrong, it’s a whole different thing when you make incorrect observations of matches as they occur.
    Lalas was awful in the World Cup coverage. It was funny to watch poor Roberto Martinez having to look at Lalas sideways, but thankfully for us he ignored and explained and analyzed.
    Wylanda most recently was horrific in promoting El Classico, on a ESPN show. ESPN was broadcasting the match throughout its stations. Wynalda brought absolutely nothing to the commentary and if anything sounded completely lost in describing significance or what was at stake.
    Please don’t get me started on Barton.

    As I mentioned, these guys just make statements for the sake of making them. Whether they even make sense doesn’t even matter in most cases, it seems as if they just want to hear themselves talk.
    The only thing that I’ve heard Wynalda say that made any sense was calling Bobby “The Voice of Reason”.
    Not a kiss ass statement. I might not always agree, but comments are always backed by actual truths.

  2. Jack says:

    Thank you for your thoughts, Ed. Perhaps your reaction to my statements about Alexi and Eric are indicative of the need for an informed and controversial commentator for soccer in the U.S.

  3. John Bladen says:

    Jack, Giorgio was one of a kind. I can’t say I “liked” him, as his major flaws too often showed through, but he was definitely a “larger than life” character. I recall Clive Toye saying the only three things he could about Chinaglia without swearing… 1) He is Italian. 2) He can score goals. 3) he speaks English with a Welsh accent.

    For those that weren’t around to witness the impact the Cosmos had in NY (and around the continent), it’s hard to explain it in terms today’s football fan would understand. Even the most major of European clubs coming to these shores wouldn’t equate…
    Like the pet rock and polaroid instant cameras, the Cosmos were a happening…

    Sometimes lost in all the talk about Chinaglia’s antics and behaviour was his sheer skill. He came to the Cosmos as a bona fide star from Italian football. If I remember correctly, he twice won the scoring title in Italy (for Lazio and ???).

    I did not have the opportunity to listen to his radio program, but likely would have enjoyed it if I had. Tact and couth were not concepts Chinaglia was well versed in.

    In this day of media controlled clubs and athletes, of tortuous “content” clauses in sponsorship contracts, and of “the brand” being above all, it is unlikely we’ll ever see anyone talk as freely (and in as opinionated a manner) as Chinaglia did (when playing or otherwise).

    Like the club itself, I take it simply as a fond memory of something that can never be repeated in today’s world. The Cosmos name may one day return, but they’ll never be “The Cosmos”

  4. Astronomer says:

    John Bladen,
    The New York Cosmos are in the process of becoming a NY-based club of MLS. Former Man Ure great Eric Cantona is its director of football/soccer.

    I am not sure when they will officially join the MLS. But you are right in saying that the Cosmos name may return (as in the above case), but it will never be “THE Cosmos.”

    The original incarnation will always be special in a historical sense.
    ______________________________________

  5. Astronomer – I would not hold my breath waiting for a New York Cosmos to enter MLS under their present structure.

  6. Ed Gomes says:

    The current Cosmos are a novelty act that plays charity/meaningless matches.
    They are more about merchandising and selling the brand than futebol. They’re just trying to cash in on the Cosmos name/history. Someone should explain to them that winning actual games in real leagues is what allows the history to be made and product to be sold.
    I could see them disappeare once again only to come back in a few in order to try to cash in once again.

  7. Astronomer says:

    Yes, I agree that the Cosmos are probably still several years away from getting admitted to MLS. However, I hope they do some time in the near future.

    It is a storied name (in the media capital of the country) and that factor alone will give them a lot of additional (positive) publicity — and MLS and its constituent clubs can always do with a little bit of extra media coverage.

    ________________________________________

  8. John Bladen says:

    Gents;

    If the Cosmos (the present iteration or another one) do one day return to the top league in NA football, how will they be anything but a shadow of the team that once was?

    Unless MLS heavily revises it’s rules to suit them (which, arguably, they did for LAG/RBNY), the Cosmos can never be anything but an imposter in white/green.

    IF you have a great name, you need to live up to it. I don’t see how that would be possible even with a well funded revival of the original club. This doesn’t appear to be that to me.

  9. Jack says:

    Enjoyed your comments, John. There was not much shiny varnish on Giorgio, but he could tell the stories!

    As for the old Cosmos vs. the new Cosmos – the old created one of the world’s first super clubs, perhaps Real Madrid beat them to the punch with the European Championship sides of the 50s, but virtually every other championship club team of the era was predominantly made up of nationals. The new Cosmos can’t hope for that on the field, only in the front office!

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