The Tampa Bay Rowdies routed soccer's million-dollar babies, the Cosmos, 4-2, today, in a match that seemed to suggest money isn't everything.
Still, it was a happening - in Germany they would have called it a Fussballfest, a soccer festival. The game marked the North American Soccer League debut to West German superstar Franz Beckenbauer, and 445,288 fans were on hand to see whether the world-class sweeper back could bring some order into the Cosmos' chaotic defense.
He couldn't. The game was decided by the first half, as the Rowdies jumped to a 3-0 lead, at intermission.
The Cosmos began well, dominating the first 25 minutes to play, and Rowide goalkeepeper Paul Hammond was forced to make three tough saves esin a 15-minute period.
One of these came in the 18th minute of play after Beckenbauer hit a beautiful long pass to Pele in the penalty area. Pele headed the ball to Giorgio Chinaglia, whose direct header was caught by Hammond, who had to stretch to his right.
Shortly thereafter, the tide turned.
Beckenbauer said he had some trouble adjusting to the different style of play of his teammates, who come from several countries, and to the NASl off-side rule, which is different from the rest of the world.
Worse, the game was played in 86-degree heat, with a relative humidity of 72 per cent. "That really bothered me, especially in the first half," Beckenbauer said.
Beckenbauer, who plays in the middle of the defense as "libero," or free defender, signed a four-year contract for a reported $2.8 million Thursday. He is considered by many to be the world's top active player, and is beyond doubt one of the best three or four of the past decade.
He is credited with inventing the position of the freewheeling last defender who is not only a sweeper back, but like hockey's Bobby Orr, is also often an extra attacker.
Unlike Pele, now 36, who was retired two years before signing with the Cosmos, 31-year-old Beckenbauer is a world-class player not yet past his prime. The Munich native is Europe's reigning player of the year.