By Michael Lewis
Alain Maca might have been the first draft pick in American soccer history by the Miami Gatos, but he would up playing for some other teams as well.
In fact, he might have had more fun and more memorable experiences at the local level.
He played for Inter-Giuliana in the German-American Soccer League, now called the Cosmopolitan Soccer League at the Metropolitan Oval. Inter had a number of North American Soccer League players who performed there in the off-season, including Ringo Cantillo, Bobby DeLuca and Paul LeSueur, among others.
“We used to pack that place,” Maca said. “We had an unbelievable team. We would just blister them.”
Inter reached the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup finals twice. Maca, however, could not play in the final because of his commitments to the Washington Diplomats.
But sometimes winning it all isn’t that matters.
The most Maca earned in the old North American Soccer League was $150 a week while playing for Miami and the Diplomats. He made more money playing in GASL.
“That was more fun to play that in the NASL,” he said. “You would play in these small stadiums. The fans were intense. There was a lot of betting going on. I made more money in that league that I did in the North American Soccer League because you got paid cash.
“We used to change in these restaurants and you’d come up to these restaurants when you’re done. People were sticking $20 bills in your pocket because they won so much money betting. It was cool stuff, the most fun I had in soccer after college.”
During the off-season when he was in the NASL, Maca wound up working at KLM. He helped the airline establish its soccer team, first playing and then becoming its assistant coach. He recruited such players as former New York Cosmos players Werner Roth, Terry Garbett and Jorge Siega.
The KLM team wound up playing in friendlies in England, the Netherlands, Hungary, France, Argentina and Jamaica.
In an interview years ago, Maca admitted he did not know what the team’s record was.
“I do know that in six years, we’ve lost only three games,” he said at the time.”
The KLM gig certainly led to something big for Maca, who became COO and president of Terminal Four at JFK Airport in Queens. He retired from that position several years ago.
Some other related stories you might be interested in:
FIRST MAN: Alain Maca was the NASL’s very first pick 48 years ago
THE IMPACT OF THE UPSET: U.S. win over England in 1950 had ramifications elsewhere in the world