The Cosmos, New York's franchise in the North American Soccer League, are negotiating to play either one or two games in China next month. The Washington Post has learned.
Sam Jaffe of Warner Communications, which owns and operates The Cosmos, confirmed yesterday that he had been in touch with the Chinese Liaison Office in Washington and was close to nailing down final approval for the trip.
"The only thing that hasn't been completed is working out the dates," Jaffe said. "Right now I'd say everything is in good shape; everything indicates 'go' right now.
"I am going to meet with them Friday and try and work out the final details. I hope by the afternoon this thing will be settled."
The Cosmos are scheduled to play in Japan during September on a farewell tour for Pele.
Jaffe said that originally the Chinese wanted The Cosmos to stay for six days and play two games, while the team wanted to stay four days and play one game.
"We are trying to work out the dates so that we can accommodate them," Jaffe said. "I expect the trip will take place around Sept. 19 or 20 if we can work everything out."
A spokesman at the Chinese Liaison Office said that reaction in Peking to The Cosmos' proposal for a tour had been "very favorable."
"The Cosmos approached us about a tour and we relayed their request to our football association," the spokesman added. "We have not yet confirmed the trip but are discussing it with The Cosmos."
In addition to Pele, considered the greatest soccer player of all time, The Cosmos have Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia, two of the world's best-known players, on their roster.
The NASL office in New York said it is not involved in the proposed trip. Neither is the U.S. State Department. Warner Communications is a private company and therefore is not required to go through government channels to set up a trip to China. Private citizens often deal with the Chinese government directly, a State Department spokesman said.
Jaffe did, however, call the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which deals with cultural exchanges, to inform it of the proposed trip.