Randy Horton

Randy HortonI’ve already booked my room and I’m looking forward to being at the NASL’s 50th anniversary event in Frisco, Tex., in October. I’ll certainly have the time, after retiring from government service in my native Bermuda.

The sport of cricket years ago lost a potential superstar to soccer when Randy Horton stowed his bat and laced up his cleats for the New York Cosmos.

“I played from when I grew up in Bermuda,” Horton said. “Cricket and football were the national sports. From when I was in elementary school to high school I was always in the fore with both. I grew up kicking and throwing the ball. My father and grandfather were big cricketers. It was in the blood a little bit. I’ve always enjoyed it, and I kind of excelled.”

After completing study at Oxford University Institute of Education Teacher Training Certificate from Culham College in Oxfordshire, England, he played five times for Bermuda’s national cricket team. But soccer/football beckoned.

Playing in a soccer game for Bermuda’s national team, Horton caught the eye of Walt Chyzowych [a future U.S. national team coach], moved to New Jersey to attend Rutgers University [where he eventually earned a Masters degree], and then accepted Chyzowych’s offer to play for the Philadelphia Ukrainians of the German-American League in 1970. One year later, the Cosmos were formed and Horton signed on, recruited by Coach Gordon Bradley.

“I always feel good to know I was part of the beginning of what I think has been a great influence on the development of soccer in America,” Horton said. He added: “I was in my time. When I played I think I had a big influence on the team and certainly much enjoyed the players and playing, I made some great friendships. Of course, I would have liked to have been there when there were 70,000 people in the stands at Giants Stadium, yes. But at the same time, I enjoyed what had been kind of my time. I have no regrets.”

For the record, Horton was the rookie of the year in 1971 and was named a first team all-star. In 1972 he led the league in scoring with 22 goals in 13 games, and scored the opening goal in the Cosmos’ 2-1 win over St. Louis in the championship match. Horton was named the NASL’s most valuable player in a vote by the league’s players (Cosmos excluded).

Besides an off-the-field highlight — his 60th birthday party for which his wife invited some former teammates, including Werner Roth, Robby Young, and Freddy Grgurev — Horton said a goal he scored at Philadelphia in 1974 stands out.

“We won 1-0, there was a big crowd [10,117] and my goal quieted the crowd,” Horton said. “The only ones jumping were on our bench. It silenced the crowd.”

After that 1974 season, Horton played two more years in the NASL — for Washington and Hartford. He moved home to Bermuda and was elected to parliament in 1998. He has since held several cabinet positions. In February 2013 he was elected as Speaker of the House, a position he held until his retirement last July.