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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