Soccer giant Pelé has died, felt the impact worldwide, and here in New Jersey, where he played for the Cosmos at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, inspiring a generation of fledgling soccer diehards.
He also had a personal connection to the New Jersey Legislature, as it turns out.
From the Facebook page of state Senator Shirley Turner (D-15):
“The world has lost Brazilian soccer legend, Pelé, who won a record three World Cups. My husband Donald (right) had the privilege of meeting Pelé (left) when he was stationed in Brazil and playing soccer for the US Marine Corps.
“Condolences to Pele’s family and fans.”
A graduate of Hightstown High School, coached by the late father of Amy Mansue, Donald Turner docked in Recife, Brazil while in the corps, and played a team coached by the soccer great.
“He idolized Pele,” Senator Turner told InsiderNJ.
Pelé would later come here.
“The Cosmos went on to win the 1977 Soccer Bowl in Pele’s final competitive game on a goal by, of all people, [Giorgio] Chinaglia, who gleefully ascended to the throne in the post-Pele era, anxious to show the world that the team’s success — indeed, the success of soccer in America — was not predicated on one man. After all, even with Pele gone, didn’t the North American Soccer League still boast box-office names like Beckenbauer, George Best, Johan Cruyff and, of course, Chinaglia himself? And why couldn’t cities like Houston, Memphis and Detroit replicate the Cosmos’ success by splashing out millions for other famous players in the gloaming of their careers?
“At least that was the nighted thinking among the Lords of American Soccer, who misread the success of the Cosmos as an endorsement of the sport rather than what it was — a feverish, ephemeral moment when the arrival of Pele combusted with the birth of showbiz in American sports. When the house of cards finally collapsed for good in 1984, the NASL’s demise was so total that it took another 12 years for a professional league (Major League Soccer) to emerge from the rubble.”
And this, from CNN:
“Pelé was admitted to a hospital in São Paulo in late November for a respiratory infection and for complications related to colon cancer. Last week, the hospital said his health had worsened as his cancer progressed. He died on Thursday from multiple organ failure due to the progression of colon cancer, according to a statement from Albert Einstein Hospital.”
The world, and New York—and New Jersey—mourned.
For more on the late Brazilian soccer legend and his connection to the Garden State, please go here.
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