Giorgio Chinaglia, the always colorful Italian soccer star who made a name in the United States after joining the New York Cosmos, has passed away. He was 65 years old.
Before he came to the United States, Chinaglia was a star player for Lazio, scoring 98 career goals for the Italian club. He also played for Italy in the 1974 World Cup, but played in only two games after a spat with the coach over being substituted, and would never play for his national side again.
The star center forward joined the New York Cosmos in 1976, at age 28, a major acquisition for the North American Soccer League. Playing alongside Pele, Chinaglia scored two goals in his first game in the United States, and would go on to be the all-time leading goal scorer in NASL history (242 goals). The fiery Chinaglia was once also involved in a brawl with a Meadowlands stadium worker during a practice session. That incident notwithstanding, Chinaglia was able to become a U.S. Citizen later that year.
In 2000, Chinaglia was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was part of ESPN’s studio coverage for the World Cup. He brought a passion and excitability to the sport, and he was the first major international star who was in his prime to come to the United States and for a period, along with signings like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, made the NASL a major draw. Rest in Peace, Giorgio.
[photo via Lakeland Ledger from August 1979]