Clive Toye's Blueprint, Part Two: The Early Days at Hofstra
Few figures have had as great of an influence on the sport of soccer in New York as Clive Toye. The first General Manager of the New York Cosmos, Toye was responsible for building the club from scratch, coming up with the name Cosmos and, through his persistent efforts, including the signing of Pelé in 1975, helped make the club a global phenomenon.
The National Soccer Hall of Famer took time recently to meet with Club Historian David Kilpatrick, to reflect upon those early days and contemplate the parallels as the club follows the blueprint for success set by those pioneers in the early days of the Cosmos in the NASL.
In part one, Toye talks about signing the Cosmos first Head Coach, Gordon Bradley, and first player, Jorge Siega. In part two, Toye recalls the Cosmos years playing in Hempstead, on the campus of Hofstra University for the 1972 and 1973 NASL seasons.
So how do you feel about the Cosmos going back to Hofstra?
It’s great! I think it’s a good place to start. It's in touch with the history and surrounded by what is now a massive youth program and interest in the game.
What can you tell me about that championship year, the first year out there in Hofstra?
In 1972, It was mostly the same players [as the inaugural 1971 season].
That year, Polish midfielder, Dieter Zajdel, came for a tryout. So Gordon Bradley saw this Polish midfielder turnout with this mop of hair, and just as he was looking at him, [defender/midfielder] Charlie McCully came in and really tackled him hard. And as he went down, his hair went off and he was bald as a badger.
Gordon almost had a heart attack because he thought his head had fallen off! It wasn’t his head - it was his hair! So he put it back on, because he was 32 or something.
Back then with the Communist countries you had to be 32 and they’d let you leave. That’s when we had Conrad Kornek, the goalkeeper, Bronislaw Sularz, the goalkeeper later [signed in ‘73], Karol Kapcinski, Dieter Zajdel and Josef Jelinek from Czechoslovakia, and a few others. They were amateurs in the Communist bloc, and were allowed to leave when they were 32. We could sign them right away, because FIFA said they were amateurs, there’s no transfer fee.
Four days after you won that championship at Hofstra, you had a game against Dynamo Moscow. To be hosting the KGB sponsored team in 1972 seems to me to speak of the historic ambitions you had right from the outset for the Cosmos.
If we had played Manchester United in those days, it would have been “who’s Manchester United?” But Moscow Dynamo! “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” In those days, I would do anything that got us in the papers… So that’s why I went after the Russians.
So I understand you had to make some kind of emergency flight to get Dynamo Moscow to come?
They were playing in the 1972 European Cup Winner’s Cup final against Glasgow Rangers, in Barcelona, and Rangers were winning [3-2]. A few minutes before the end of the game, the Rangers fans flooded the field in celebration. The following day after that game, Dynamo were due to get on a plane and fly to America from Barcelona, to play us and Dallas, Atlanta, Vancouver. But because the fans were on the field they chose to protest the game to UEFA and say “we have to replay the game. And because we’re going to replay the game of course we’re not going to America.
It so happened that the following day that FIFA was meeting in Vienna. So I got on a plane that night.
So I met with [then FIFA President] Sir Stanley Rous, whose ghost writer I’d been in the past. Sir Stanley called the Russian guy in, told him off, said this was bloody ridiculous and that Dynamo had to go. He asked when did I want them to come, and I said, “now with our schedule it’s got to be in August,” got them a reduced fee for all the inconvenience they caused, and they came in August.
And what great timing that was, four days after you’d just won the NASL championship on that field at Hofstra?
Well, that’s right, for sure, it was. We got a lot of people to that game, that’s for sure.
When they got off the plane, it was all very stiff with a kiss you on both cheeks and all that very formal stuff. I took [Lev] Dariyugin [club president of Moscow Dynamo] and [goalkeeper Lev] Yashin and some KGB guy on a boat around Manhattan. And then Dariyugin and Yahsin came out to my house in Scarsdale one evening.
Now I used to smoke cigars in those days. And Dariyugin gave me this cigar. As I’m lighting this cigar, he started pushing people out of the way. He’d bought one of those joke cigars for me, and it exploded in my face! We all got on famously.
I remember taking them shopping and I said, “go ahead, walk in. Nobody needs anything to walk in to a store here.” They were dumbfounded.
I met them at the airport on their way back to Russia. And they had been having fun. They drank the United States dry. We went to their hotel before their flight back home and, well, I drank more than I should have done, but it was vodka and caviar, and everyone had a wonderful time. We could have put an end to the Cold War right there and then.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your memories. It’s going to be a lot of fun when you join us for the Cosmos' return to Hofstra.
Clive Toye’s latest book, Toby and the Greatest Game, a children’s novel about soccer, was published earlier this year by iUniverse Press. His autobiographical account of the Cosmos’ formation and the first incarnation of the North American Soccer League, A Kick in the Grass, is available from St. Johann Press.