The polarizing Giorgio Chinaglia
Posted on September 3, 2013 12:26 am
I don’t know if there has ever been anyone else in American soccer on whom there was such a wide divergence of opinion as Giorgio Chinaglia, who starred for the New York Cosmos from 1976 to 1983. It seems as though the majority of people either worshiped him or couldn’t stand him, with few neutrals. When he died last year, most of the obituaries focused on his positive achievements, as obituaries tend to do, rightly so. Here is some of the good and some of the bad concerning Chinaglia. There was plenty of both.
—Chinaglia was a first-team NASL all-star six times in his eight seasons with the Cosmos and helped to lead the Cosmos to the NASL championship four times. He scored in four of the five NASL title games he played in, including the winning goal three times.
—Chinaglia had a hand in bringing about the departures of four different Cosmos coaches, Gordon Bradley, Ken Furphy, Eddie Firmani and Hennes Weisweiler, each of who had displeased him in one way or another. One of those, Firmani, was someone whom he had helped to bring in as Cosmos coach just two years before. Chinaglia’s ability to wield this influence came largely through his friendship with Steve Ross (above, with Chinaglia), the chairman of the company that owned the Cosmos.
—Chinaglia scored 397 goals in all games for the Cosmos. That includes 242 goals in NASL games (both regular season and playoffs). The rest came in friendlies, mostly on the tours the Cosmos took in Europe, South America and Asia.
—Chinagia was the straw that broke the camel’s back concerning the NASL (it is true that the NASL’s troubles began long before that straw dropped). In March 1985, Chinaglia, who by then was running the Cosmos, announced that they wouldn’t pay their performance bond for the 1985 NASL season, something that scared away potential NASL investors and precipitated the folding of the league a few weeks later.
—Chinaglia led the Italian Serie A with 24 goals in the 1973-74 season, when Lazio won the championship just two years after it had gained promotion from Serie B. After Lazio sold him to the Cosmos in 1976, the Cosmos had to slip him out of Rome quietly following reports that distraught Lazio fans planned to try to block his plane from leaving the gate.
—Chinaglia was in considerable legal trouble with the Italian government in the last decade of his life. In November 2007, he was fined 4.2 million Euros (about $6 million) in absentia by an Italian court for what prosecutors said was his part in a scam involving a bid to buy Lazio. Eight months later, Chinaglia was one of 10 men who were charged with having used laundered money from organized crime in that Lazio bid. Seven others, all of whom lived in Italy, were arrested. Chinaglia, who became an American citizen in 1979 and who never returned to Italy after his first indictment there, was never arrested and never paid the 2007 fine.
—Chinaglia shared one goalscoring record in first-division American soccer that may never be broken, for goals scored in a single game. On Aug. 31, 1980, he scored seven goals in an NASL playoff game between the Cosmos and the Tulsa Roughnecks.
—Chinaglia’s career in the Italian national team came to an abrupt end when he displayed an unhappy side of his personality after being pulled for a substitute in a World Cup game against Haiti in June 1974. He stormed off the field, swore at the coach and threw a bottle-breaking tantrum in the locker room. This foreshadowed his troubles with Cosmos coach Eddie Firmani, which began after Firmani replaced him in a game in 1978.
—Chinaglia’s greatest season with the Cosmos probably was 1980, when he scored 32 goals in 32 games during the regular season and then added 18 more goals in seven games during the playoffs. That was one of four seasons when he led the NASL in goals.
So does the good outweigh the bad concerning Chinaglia, or vice versa?