By Dr. David Kilpatrick/NYCosmos.com
The legendary Giorgio Chinaglia passed away on April 1, 2012. The enigmatic striker left an indelible mark on the global game and is revered in the Eternal City and the Empire City, Rome and New York, for goals scored and titles won with Lazio and the Cosmos. A dynamic showman on and off the field, a character who wore many masks, on the anniversary of his death, we remember the Cosmos’ greatest goal scorer through the words of some of those who loved him and knew him best.
Rick Davis, former midfielder, New York Cosmos:
“Giorgio was the Godfather. What Giorgio brought was this incredible intensity to every game that he ever played in. To this day, I have yet to meet anyone in any sport that I believe was as fierce a competitor as Giorgio was. Giorgio was a big mentor, a big role model for me. I knew that when I came to play, I had to bring it all.”
Bob Smith, former defender, New York Cosmos:
“I loved George. I had a great relationship with him. I liked him for scoring goals. Attitude? I love attitude, if you can prove it. He was an egotistical, proud, goal scorer that could score goals. I loved him. Chinaglia liked the American guys. We had good relationships with him.”
Hubert Birkenmeier, former goalkeeper, New York Cosmos:
“George, when he walked on the field, he was dangerous. He was a great goal scorer. There was nobody in the league better than George. He is greatly missed. It is too bad that he had to leave us too early. There was a shock that went out through the Cosmos fans and his teammates when they heard about him. I was close to him. Always had a lot of fun with him. He was a great teammate to me.”
Andranik Eskandarian, former defender, New York Cosmos:
“He would protect you. At the same time, he would respect you. It was respect for everybody. He was the captain. If the hotel wasn’t good he would say, “we don’t stay here” and just walk. He would take care of players first, not to go and say “I am leader.” If it was no good, for everybody it was no good.
“He had something that I had never seen at a striker. He was probably the fastest I’ve ever seen to shoot. He was a second faster than everybody. That was his key. Some way he had that fast release, that’s how he scored all those goals. He was a good, excellent player. He won so many good things for us. I have a lot of respect for him. I miss him.
Fred Grgurev, former striker, New York Cosmos:
“We were close friends. He was a really understanding person. He was a pleasure to be around and talk soccer. I think for the Cosmos that he will be always there. He will be always a Cosmos legacy, no question. Giorgio’s name will always be associated with the Cosmos in a deep sentiment.
“He definitely was controversial, no question. The media always had something to write about. You wanted to have exposure? Giorgio. With the quotes and his antics he provided as well as scoring goals. We had a lot of fun, we had good times, there were so many.
“I miss him, as a friend. Every holiday he just wanted to say hello and keep in touch. We kept close ties. That was our life. It was always soccer, soccer, soccer. There was never enough of it for us.”
Bob Iarusci, former defender, New York Cosmos:
“I lost a very good friend a year ago. The game of soccer lost one of its great characters. There’s no question about it. He was bigger than life. At the Cosmos, he really made the team tick. With all the great players that played in New York, there were things that Giorgio did that probably surpassed all of what everybody else did.
“When it came down to executing and winning soccer games, scoring big goals, the North American soil has never seen anybody like Giorgio Chinaglia. I can boldly say that. The greatest scorer I’ve ever seen with my eyes. To think that the Cosmos won four Soccer Bowls and Giorgio scored the winning goal in all four of those games; that’s pretty powerful.
“He was bigger than life. For me, at the time, he was my best friend. There was no one who loved the American game more than George. There was no one who supported the North American player more than George. He loved the Cosmos and he wanted to win. I learned a lot from Giorgio. I learned a lot about soccer. I learned a lot about handling situations. It was a lot of fun to be with him.”
Giorgio Chinaglia, Jr.:
“I want to thank all the people who have shown my sisters, mother and I their love and support during this sad time of remembrance. A year has passed rather quickly since we lost our father and it is still very hard to believe he is gone.
“There will never be another one like him and we miss him terribly but thanks to all of you, his memory and spirit are alive and well. In the last year, we have made great strides in launching a website and the foundation to not only honor him, but to help inspire people the way he did during his career.
“He was a warrior on the field but off the field he was a generous soft spoken man who would give the shirt off his back for someone in need. Not many people knew the latter Giorgio, so it is our duty to do his character the justice it deserves. We encourage everyone to take the time out of their busy lives to do something positive for people less fortunate and help make a difference in theirs. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Mark Harrison, director, the Giorgio Chinaglia Foundation:
"Giorgio was a much better human being than the press ever reported. As a kid, I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease and put into leg braces by doctors. When Giorgio found out, he treated me like his son and insisted I ride the Cosmos team bus everywhere with him. I enjoyed a life-long friendship with him. He made a large impact on who I am today and I am proud to be on the board of directors for his foundation to carry out his life's work in caring for kids with disabilities."
Joel Rosenstein, former trainer, New York Cosmos:
“George was truly a unique individual. If he was your friend, there was nothing he wouldn't do for you.
“Even though he may have had a hard exterior, he definitely had a soft side to him. I remember when his father needed back surgery, I went with Giorgio and his father to the surgeon, and to just watch him and feel the love he had for his father was a revelation. There were many sides to Giorgio that few people saw.”
Sandy Moschini, Fan:
“I was a season-ticket holder with the Cosmos during their reign at Giants Stadium and was privileged to watch all the stars during that time, especially Giorgio. He became a very close friend with my family and I since we are Italian and have fond memories of his days in Italy.
“I was also one of the original members of the Giorgio Chinaglia Fan Club which Giorgio frequented and donated his time to. I also have a very extensive photo collection of Giorgio that I have taken myself and cherish those dearly. But my prize possession is Giorgio's jersey that he gave me. There are just too many special memories to mention and they will be with me forever. I miss him dearly!”
Pietro Mosconi, Owner and Chef, Monte’s Trattoria, Greenwich Village:
“Chinaglia was a very nice person. He was a great striker. It was very nice to speak with him when he used to come into the restaurant. We miss him. He was a great guy. We miss him in New York because we still don’t have anyone like him.”
G. Peppe Pinton, former general manager, president and CEO, New York Cosmos:
“The contribution of Chinaglia was unprecedented to this sport. He came in his prime. He performed on the field and he was prolific. He contributed to the Cosmos’ success on the field but also off the field.
“It was a hate/love relationship [with the fans], which is what made the sport and brought the people to Giants Stadium. Giorgio knew that. He would score goals, he would dance, give the finger, give the arm, he would applaud, he would kneel down, he would run to the coach; everything to bring attention. That attention sold out Giants Stadium, made the front page and made this sport take off.
“I would like to send a message to those that loved him, to love him even more now. To those that were thinking that they hated him, they really didn’t, that they should just be able to love. This man gave them so much pleasure, so much joy, so much entertainment, so much glory. He was the one that brought them to the stadium, he and the Cosmos, for love or hate, he brought them. They’re going to miss this man.
“He will go down in history as a player that gave it all, fulltime. He did not come here to retire. He came to make something to stay. He was certainly a very controversial man but that’s what made him unique. And that’s why the press embraced him. I would certainly hope that those that liked him will like him forever. For those that hate him, change, and reach out to him, and keep his name alive for many, many years.
“I miss him very much. I wish Giorgio was still here to enjoy the vision that we shared, to see the rebirth of the Cosmos, because I think that it would give him, like it gives me, great joy. It is sad he is no longer with us because he knew, like I do, that the Cosmos will never die.
“We really did have a lot of laughs. We had a beautiful time together.”
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