The World Cup: Then and Now

“What’s the World Cup?” Well, it’s a competition for national teams, went the answer.

“What’s a national team?” Hmm, that took a bit longer to explain but it needed to be done.

Now I would quite understand if the response of any reader was to class that opening paragraph as pure nonsense – but in reality those were questions that had to be answered in the early days of the NASL, and answered many times. And with little response, as I shall explain.

Phil Woosnam left the Atlanta Chiefs and I left the Baltimore Bays and together we ran the league – as the only two remaining in our vast offices in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium … actually the visitors’ locker room, loaned to us by Dick Cecil because we had no money to pay rent.

Our task began in 1969 and amid all the immediate tasks, like keeping the league alive and finding new owners, Phil and I decided on two major jobs for the future … hosting the World Cup in the U.S. and bringing in Pelé to lift our level of recognition.

It took us a few years to find the New York ownership, persuade them to hire me and listen to the argument that Pelé should be chased and captured, as he was in 1975.

Our task to bring in the World Cup also began in 1969, but took until 1994 to succeed and then lead us to today, yesterday, several days before and several more to come when the 2018 World Cup dominated the land.

Back then in the days of “What’s the World Cup?” Phil and I bought the U.S. television rights for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. We paid $15,000 for the exclusive rights (that’s 15 thousand dollars for all the rights, in case you thought some zeros were missing).

But then, with that privilege in hand, we could not find a television network to show the games,. No one was interested, not even for nothing, as a gift from us to their viewers, no one. So we managed to close-circuit the games into places like Madison Square Garden in New York and others in Chicago and Los Angeles. that was it.

Now? Now it is in my way wherever I go. Dragged by my wife to go shopping in this vast mall, I was confronted by groups of people clustered in many places … watching a game on giant TV screens. The doctor’s waiting room had three screens showing a game. As I was going through some tests, a nurse opened the door and told my nurse the score. Later a passing female doctor heard me speak and wished England luck the next day. A neighboring old soul who has never seen a ball kicked, phoned to comment on an England win. The doctor said his wife was from Colombia so he had better not mention my visit.

Finally, I happened to drive out to the edge of the Everglades, into the tribal land of the Miccosukee to visit the one building there; a hotel and casino with flashing advertising screens urging people to come and see the World Cup on their giant screens.