The great ones can not be explained. We can not say how Julius Erving defies gravity, nor how Rod Carew sees the seams spinning on a curve ball. For that matter, we don't know how O. J. Simpson can rent a car so quickly. All miracles of nature. Which brings us to Six Lights.
Andries (Six Lights) Maseko plays soccer for the Washington Diplomats. He's 24 years old, a South African who is a rookie in the North American Soccer League. Four years ago, in his first professional game, playing at night under stadium lights, Maseko scored six goals. "They name me, so, Six Lights," he said yesterday, smiling.
What a smile it was, born of joy remembered. Today, against Chicago at RFK Stadium, he'll make his first start for the Dips, taking over for the injured Ray Graydon, and Maseko was a tiny bundle of delight after practice yesterday. For the Moroka Swallows, he scored 75 goals last season, celebrating each by flapping his arms, swallow-like. "He has a mania for scoring goals," said his coach, Gordon Bradley. "If he scores (today), he'll go berserk."
Maseko is planning on it.
"Surely," he said when someone asked if he would score in his first NASL game.
"Surely, one goal," he said.
"In the first period."
Who can explain Six Lights? There came a time in practice yesterday when the Dips practiced shoot-out goals, one attacker moving with the ball against the goalkeeper. And Six Lights did the inexplicable. While moving, he faked a strong kick with his right foot, tapped the kall side-ways with his left and then kicked it into the goal with his right. Certain eyes blinked. Does Six Lights have three legs?
"It is a trick to fool the goalkeeper," Maseko said.
"He does things with the ball that are not in the book," said the coach, Bradley, whose assistant coach, Joe Mallett, said, "If anyone else tried those things, he'd be in the hospital; he'd injure himself."
Strange, the way things happen. Here the Dips are opening their home season with a Zulu tribesman called Six Lights playing for the coach who Cosmos, the best team in America, in New York practically invented the and then was fired halfway through its greatest season. A year ago, no one could have imagined a Bradley-Maseko-Washington connection.
Maseko knew of the NASL. In fact, his favorite coach was Gordon Bradley "because he coached The Cosmos and Pele and Beckebauer," Maseko said. "I read about them in the papers in South Africa. I wanted to come to this side, but I did not think I was good enough."
Bradley, in turn knew nothing of Maseko. With The Cosmos, the coach had the makings of a championship team: Pele, the West German Franz Beckenbauer, the Italian Giorgio Chinaglia. For six years, Bradley and the club president, Clive Toye, had built for this moment.
But in June 14, Toye was replaced as president by Ahmet Ertegun, the boss of one division of the giant Warner Communications corporation that owns The Cosmos. In the April issue of Sport Magazine, Bradley is quoted saying June 14 was "the sickest day in the history of American soccer." Apparently, Ertegun didn't like the way Toye handled financial matters.
Soon enough, Bradley knew he was in danger, too. He took Chinaglia out of the starting lineup. He did it knowing Chinaglia had unusual power for a player: the Italian was a personal friend of the Warner boss, Steve Ross. "But I dropped him, and that was a major catastropphe for some people," Bradley said yesterday.
"We won the game Chinaglia sat out. It was probably our best game of the season, in fact. But right after that, I got an order from Warner Communications - not from The Cosmos, but a corporation order - to put Chinaglia back in the lineup."
On July 7, three weeks after Toye's demise, Bradley was kicked upstairs to be The Cosmos' dirctor of player development.
"Chinaglia was the reason." Bradley said yesterday. "The irony of it was that it was me who signed him from Italy."
So when the Washington Diplomats needed a coach, they went for a man who was instrumental in making The Cosmos so successful they could hire a player who would have enough influence to fire him. And Gordon Bradley, hired by the Diplomats, got on the telephone, working. He called South Africa, to an agent Named Toy Mostart, who had sent the star player Jomo Sono to The Cosmos.
"I told Mostart. I want another Jomo Sono,' and he said, "I've got two of them'" Bradley said. "It nearly rocked me out of my chair."
Without seeing the players, Bradley had Mostart send them to Washington.
One was Ken (Race Horse) Mokgojoa, who scored 88 goals in the South player was Andreis (Six Lights Maseko, who says, "The coach who coached Pele and Beckebauer now coaches me. I am very happy. I can be one Pele if I listen to what the coach teaches me."
Giorgio Chinaglia never said anything like that.