Remembering Soccer Star Giorgio Chinaglia

Hearing about the death of soccer Hall of Famer Giorgio Chinaglia brought back a lot of childhood memories when my dad used to take me to New York Cosmos games back in the Pele heyday when they used to fill Giants Stadium (yes, do not let my youthful good looks deceive you, I am old enough to remember the Cosmos).

Chinaglia was a larger than life character. Just as Reggie Jackson grabbed headlines in baseball with his on-the-field baseball heroics and his off-the-field swagger with his "straw that stirs the drink" comments, Chinaglia did the same thing on and off the soccer fields of Italy and then the United States. I recall people booing him for his cockiness, but then cheering for him when he would score (and proceed to give the crowd a two-finger salute for their fickleness). He was an incredible striker. He had a record seven goals in one game. My dad loves telling me the story of when he was sitting near a Chinaglia hater at a game in which Giorgio scored three goals -- the naysayer left early as the fans around him chanted Chinaglia's name. 

As a kid, even though I was enthralled by the New York Yankees, I still caught the soccer bug. I was watching some children's TV show on a Saturday morning in the early 1980s and Chinaglia was a guest, giving a demonstration on some soccer moves -- I remember immediately running to my backyard to practice.  One year, my parents gave me a scrapbook of Daily News articles about the New York Cosmos and I read it cover to cover, fascinated by all those personalities -- Pele, Beckenbauer, and of course the ever-quotable Chinaglia.

A publisher could probably make a nice fortune compiling all of Chinaglia's outlandish quotes, it would be an instant bestseller -- he was never afraid to speak his mind. Love him or hate him, he was one of the best. May he rest in peace.

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