NY Cosmos Legend Giorgio Chinaglia: A Finisher Till the End

Thanks for the Memories! (Image Source: Mario Ramos)

New York, NY - New York Cosmos Legend Giorgio Chinaglia, the best and most controversial player to ever participate in the NASL passed away at the age of 65-years old on Sunday, April 1, 2012. With heart complications the cause of his death, the former Cosmos and Lazio striker passed away in his home in Naple, Florida.

While Pelé was the most beloved Cosmos player, Chinaglia was the team’s “Ultimate Winner.”

Whether you loved or loathed him, one thing was certain… Chinaglia always played to win. Prior to arriving to the Cosmos, Chinaglia led Lazio to their first title in the 1974. During his time with Lazio, Chinaglia was also part of the Italian national team where he scored four goals in 14 games and competed in the 1974 World Cup.

Joining the Cosmos in 1976, Chinaglia scored 19 goals in 19 games as New York eventually lost to the Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-1 in the Division Championship. The 1977 season, Pelé’s final season, the New York Cosmos added Franz Beckenbauer, and Carlos Alberto to their roster.

While those world class players added more depth to the Cosmos, it must be remembered that it was Chinaglia’s game winning the goal against the Seattle Sounders in Soccer Bowl ’77 that gave Pelé a championship in his final season. Following Pelé’s retirement, Chinaglia led the New York Cosmos to three additional Soccer Bowl titles.

The four-time Soccer Bowl winner (’77, ’78, ’80 and ’82) scored a whopping 243 goals in 254 games as a New York Cosmos. Never gun-shy with his comments, Giorgio Chinaglia always spoke his mind. Whether you agreed or disagreed with him, you at least knew where he stood.

Prior to joining the New York Cosmos, Chinaglia also recorded a song titled “Football Crazy” in 1974. Along with Pelé, Chinaglia is the other New York Cosmos player to ever appear in the cover of Sports Illustrated (May 21, 1979). To read the article, click here.

Retiring as the NASL’s all-time leading scorer in 1983, Giorgio Chinaglia was inducted into the United States Soccer Hall of Fame in 2000 for his marvelous contribution to American soccer during his playing days with the New York Cosmos.

When it’s said and done, Giorgio Chinaglia was the first number nine I’ve ever admired. Giorgio Chinaglia is one of the reasons why I love American Soccer. As much as I love the other leagues and players, my love for soccer started with the NASL and the talent they had then. To this day, I can relate to it and have no reservation defending any of our leagues.

One thing that the passing of Giorgio Chinaglia reminds us is that we’re human. The beautiful thing about pictures is that much like words, they can stand the test of time. Browsing through my photo collection, I decided to use a photo which best symbolized his quote, “I am a finisher. That means when I finish with the ball, it is in the back of the net.”

Giorgio Chinaglia was such an influential player to me that when I was able to track down and order his autobiography, Chinaglia,it was Christmas morning for me. Not only did I enjoy this gem, his insight gave me an idea on how to cover soccer as well as deal with players, on page 201 of his autobiography:

“It’s interesting to note the difference between soccer reporting in the United States and in Europe. Whereas European journalists write up their personal observations and opinions of a game without going near a dressing room, their American counterparts base much of their stories on the reflections and views of the coaches and players. Unfortunately, this dependency on quotes defeats one of the purposes of the dressing room. A dressing room should be a place where players can calm down and relax.” 

To be honest, those words are the reason why I rarely interview players or coaches after a match. It reminded me that a player’s job is on the pitch and after a match, they may not want to talk about their team’s performance. It also planted the seeds that there’s so many angles and topics one can utilize in covering a match.

While Giorgio Chinaglia may be viewed as a Hero or Machiavellian to many, the legendary player I saw as a child was the man I met last year. During my conversation with Chinaglia, we didn’t talk much soccer. Towards the conclusion of our conversation, I simply thanked him for the memories and told him it was an honor to have met him.  With the simplicity of a hug and a couple of kisses on both my cheeks, my interaction of Giorgio Chinaglia became even more memorable.

While Giorgio Chinaglia is no longer walking among us, his contributions towards American Soccer as a NY Cosmos player inspired me to passionately love soccer. His outspoken personality combined with his passion to win and finish is what made Giorgio Chinaglia great. Hey Giorgio, it was an honor to have met you and you’ll never be forgotten.

Thanks for the memories!


Cesar Diaz is a freelance writer for several online soccer publications. If there’s a soccer topic you believe needs to be written about, please feel free to contact him. Easily approachable, you may contact him at [email protected] and @CesarDiazNYC.

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One Response to “NY Cosmos Legend Giorgio Chinaglia: A Finisher Till the End”

  1. Horace
    April 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Indeed, a fantastic player with an amazing ability to score almost every single game - and even 7 goals in one game! -, and with a unique personality. He became an icon for the Cosmos and for American soccer, as well as globally; recognized everywhere.
    I will alway remember his conversations with Charlie Stillitano (i.e. why concentration is needed in golf or tennis), and one great comment depicts Giorgio: when he was asked “Giorgio, I heard you played with Pele”, he would say, “No, no, Pele played with me”.
    God Bless you, Giorgio.

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