The new Diplomats officially arrive in Washington last night, via Michigan, England and Florida. The new faces, and old one, were unveiled before a couple of hundred guests at an RFK Stadium club reception, proving his team does exist.
Team owner Jimmy Hill, who has been called "the Howard Cosell of England," came all the way from Coventry over there to help introduce Washington's fourth professional soccer team to the District.
Thrust into the limelight, as he was so often a few years ago as an old Diplomat, Paul Cannell was the center of attention.
Many of the players did not wear neckties, because their luggage had not gotten here from England. Coach Ken Furphy, ever the English gentleman, asked those in attendance to forgive them the trespass. "This is normally a fine," Furphy said. "But these are extenuating circumstances."
Cannell, wearing a blue sport jacket and collarless shirt, was next in line to be introduced. The man who once dropped his drawers during a Dip game disappeared momentarily and returned with a brown polka-dot tie, wrapped around his bare neck. The audience broke up. Even Furphy.
Such looseness was somewhat lacking on last year's team. This team is not as talented as last year's Dips. But this is more of a team. The players seemed genuinely comfortable with each other last night. They obviously realize anything less than unified effort will result in an unsatisfactory season.
"No ego problems on this team," one club official said. "We don't have any superstars like the old Dips did. And we're not as talented. But we may be a better team."
When Furphy introduced the only Eastern European player, Peter Baralic of Yugoslavia said in broker English, "I don't know how to speak very good English, but I don't know how to play very good soccer."
The player nearest true stardom, goalkeeper Jim Brown, admitted he was slightly nervous in his new home city but expressed conviction that this team can perform well enough to make the playoffs and garner the respect of the area's soccer fans.
Brown pointed to the team, as the Detroit Express, losing 14 of last year's 18 defeats by a single goal, and to many of the young players -- like Benny Dargle, Don Nardiello, Eddie Dietz and Ivan Belfiore -- being a year older and more experienced.
"We'll be okay," Brown reassured. "It'll be exciting."
"Unlike our predecessors," said Hill, "we don't want to flash for one, or for two years. We want to be a permanent part of this community."
The team announced its games will be broadcast on WWDC-1260. General Manager Duncan Hill and the Starplex Armory general manager, Bob Sigholtz, said they expect between 16,000 and 17,000 for the April 11 home opener against Montreal Le Manic, which has signed former Diplomat Carmine Marcantonio.