Jump to content

PLAYING FOR UNCLE SAM-a terrific book on the NASL


Recommended Posts

Hi all,

I have just finished reading Playing for Uncle Sam: The Brits’ Story of the North American Soccer League by David Tossell(for the third time!) and I thought I would share my thoughts about this terrific book.

Firstly, let me say that it is very well researched. Tossell has interviewed some 60 ex-players and has plenty of biographical information on most of the Brits who played in the NASL as well as some of the superstars who came from other countries. He is constantly referring to players and giving us info on their Football League careers (and non-league careers as well), International caps and what teams they evolved with. As with most books relying heavily on interviews, it has many, many anecdotes told by the players and coaches. There is a chapter devoted to Rodney Marsh and George Best as well as one on Pelé but he is not afraid to talk about many obscure players who made their mark in the NASL. There is of course a lot on the New York Cosmos(the good, the bad and the downright ugly) as well as a great chapter on the Whitecaps and their 1979 Soccer Bowl victory.

Here are some anecdotes that I found particularly interesting:

- Peter McParland of the Atlanta Chiefs(formerly of Aston Villa and capped by Northern Ireland) tells of arriving in Atlanta in 1967 and being astounded that the only people who had ever played soccer were women who had played in school.

- Ron Newman also of Atlanta tells of a parade through town organized by the team to introduce soccer to Atlanta where people looked at the players like they were a bunch of freaks. Newman jumped off the float and started kicking soccer balls to the kids along the parade route. Other players did the same making the parade a big success.

- The Atlanta players started the youth soccer programs in that city as there was nothing before the team arrived. It was impossible to buy uniforms anywhere and there were no soccer fields. The youth players had to play on baseball fields!

- When Graham Leggat was asked to coach the Toronto Metros in 1971 he had no players or field until 8 weeks before the season started. He eventually got some reserve and youth players from the UK as well as some local Toronto players.

- The Seattle Sounders had a terrific relationship with their fans. At the end of their first season, players distributed roses to all the women in the stands(very much appreciated by the fans)!

- Five days before the first ever Portland Timbers game, the first nine players arrived from England. Three more arrived just two days before the game leaving the coach very little time to have a full practice.

- The Timbers played on a converted baseball stadium-half Astroturf, half dirt. The first game saw a heavy rainfall turn the field into a mixture of slick Astroturf and knee-deep mud!

- There was a deep rift within the Cosmos between the South American players and the Brits, so much that the South Americans would only pass the ball to Pelé and not to any Brit!

- Pelé and Chinaglia did not get along.

- There was a lot of infighting between the Ertegun brothers (who co-owned the Cosmos with Warner) and GM Clive Toye. One particularly ludicrous example had the Erteguns wanting Toye to play keeper Erol Yasin ahead of American Shep Messing because, like them, he was Turkish!

- Many players had a great deal of difficulty playing on Astroturf and playing in very high heat and humidity. A player talks about playing in 120 degrees in San Antonio and then going into an air conditioned dressing room where the temperature was 70 degrees and cooling down too much causing him muscle pulls.

- Many players would play year round. Winter in the UK and fly to the US to play the summer, flying back at the end of the NASL season to rejoin their teams(personally I don’t know how their bodies stood up to that kind of punishment).

- At the start of the 1979 season, the players wanted to start a players’ union. The league was not happy with the fact that the players would be represented by the NFL Players Association. After a lot of bad words the players decided to hold a strike on April 14. Many players crossed the picket lines to play but teams had to fill out their rosters with many amateurs and the like. Ron Newman(now coach of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers) came out of retirement at age 43 and played along with his son and his assistant coach. The New England Tea Men filled out the roster with players from the local Portuguese amateur leagues.

These are obviously just a few highlights from this terrific book. I can only suggest that you pick up this book and read it yourself. It is very informative and delightfully entertaining.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...