Remembering the Godfather
By David Kilpatrick with help from Mark Harrison
Had he not passed away on April 1, 2012, Giorgio Chinaglia would have been 66 years old today. The legendary Chinaglia is perhaps best remembered for his goal-scoring prowess. With 436 goals in 413 appearances for the Cosmos (397 goals in 392 games outdoor and 38 goals in 21 games indoor) from 1976-1983, it is hard to imagine his tally or rate will ever be equaled, at this club or any other in North America. In Giorgio’s time with the Cosmos, the club won four of its five NASL titles (’77, ’78, ’80 & ’82), and he scored the winning goal in three of those four winning Soccer Bowls (’77, ’78 & ’82).
Chinaglia rose to fame in Italy’s Serie A, where he led S.S. Lazio to their first ever title in 1973-74. His 98 goals in 209 games, from 1969-1976, earned him the honor of being named the club’s greatest player when the Biancocelesti celebrated their centenary in 2000.
As Mark Harrison of the Giorgio Chinaglia Foundation noted recently, Chinaglia scored an astounding 55 percent of the goals scored by the Cosmos from 1976-1983. On an attack-minded team stocked with superstars, his lion’s share of the goals made him a focal point, and he enjoyed tremendous influence behind the scenes at the club.
As a child with a Chinaglia poster on the wall, I was shocked the first time I heard the crowd at Giants Stadium boo the superstar striker but Chinaglia seemed to embrace the role of villain, and his larger-than-life character was one of Shakespearean complexity.
In a lengthy cover feature for the May 21, 1979 issue of Sports Illustrated (yes, once upon a time soccer players would appear on the cover of SI), Chinaglia explained his craft to J.D. Reed, speaking for strikers everywhere and for all time in the simplest way: “Putting the goddam ball in the net is the game. It is the toughest thing in the world to do.” He did just that, more times with the Cosmos than any other professional player for any team in North American soccer history.
In anticipation of the first anniversary of his passing, and especially on this his birthday, fans throughout Cosmos Country reflect upon the Godfather, Giorgio “Long John” Chinaglia. Have any special memories of Giorgio from on or off the field? We’d love to hear from you. Please contact Club Historian, Dr. David Kilpatrick via David@NYCosmos.comDavid@NYCosmos.com or follow him on Twitter: @DrDKilpatrick.
A special thank you to Mark Harrison for his detailed research into Giorgio Chinaglia's career.