March 30, 2017


I tried out for the New York Cosmos. Would I make the grade? : When Pele's old club announced they were holding open tryouts, I, a 31-year-old journalist with no professional football experience, dared to dream (Adam Gabbatt, 30 March 2017, The Guardian)

Things haven't gone well for the Cosmos since those glory years of the late 1970s. The NASL - at the time the top soccer league in America - folded in 1984, and the Cosmos were dissolved in a year later.

The team was revived in 2010, but now it plays in the second tier of US football. The Cosmos have actually managed to attract a couple of big names in recent years - Raul, who played 741 times for Real Madrid, briefly played there in 2015 - but as recently as December the club was laying off players amid rumors of financial uncertainty.

This might have had something to do with the location of the tryout: an isolated football field near the Rockaway peninsula on the southern tip of Long Island. On the day of the tryout there was a biting wind sweeping in from the Atlantic, and according to my phone, the temperature felt like 14F.

This presented a problem. I'd only brought a football shirt and shorts. Most of the other players were wearing tracksuit tops or long-sleeved jerseys.

I had to improvise. When I eventually trotted onto the pitch, past New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese - capped 30 times for Venezuela - I was wearing a grey fisherman's knit sweater. I'm sure it didn't help my cause. I've never seen Cristiano Ronaldo play in a cardigan.

Still, I took up my position at centre-back, and as the whistle blew I noticed Savarese eating a bag of potato chips while talking on the phone on the touchline.

We'd been told to line up as a 4-3-3, but in a unique take on the formation we ended up playing with a false-left back, after one of our defenders announced: "I only play left wing."

It left us stretched, but our team took the lead almost immediately. I didn't see the goal because I was at the other end of the pitch, doubled over, trying to catch my breath - instant karma for rooting against the lummox - but it was pleasing all the same.

It was mostly downhill from there. The other team shuffled the ball about in midfield, and all of a sudden one of their better players was bearing down on our goal. I ran forward - I'd call it a charge, but it was too slow for that - and tried to stop him. I missed. He ran past me, and I gave chase, but my sweater had become something of a wind-trap and was acting like a parachute. He duly scored.

The same player was put through a few minutes later, and this time I succeeded in fouling him. But as I stood over my opponent, congratulating myself that I'd at least been able to kick him this time, and he jumped up, ran off, and scored.

Thankfully, my defensive partner Melvin turned out to be really good at football. He did a lot of running and kept the scoreline respectable. When we were eventually summoned off the pitch we'd only conceded three goals, which gave me a possibly misplaced sense of pride.

Posted by at March 30, 2017 5:45 AM