By Michael Lewis
The likes of Pele, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia have been written about from here to eternity about their heroics in the North American Soccer League. And rightfully so.
Yet, they were not the only players to star and entertain fans in this continent’s original first division league.
Have you ever heard of these players?
They are just a few players who have been featured in a book that will teach you about Black History of the NASL.
Contrary to popular belief of a generation or two, U.S. soccer history did not begin with the 1994 World Cup or Major League Soccer two years ago.
You might want to call anything since then the modern era of soccer in this country.
The USA has a treasure trove of history, going back to “ancient” times early in the 20th century and up to and through the North American Soccer League.
Historians such as Colin Jose and Roger Allaway have written informative and interesting books about the subject.
Brooklyn College women’s soccer coach Patrick Horne has taken it in a slightly different direction with his book, Black Pioneers of the North American Soccer (1968-84).
Published in 2019 by Page Publishing, Horne’s thoroughly researched book features many of the Black players who helped build and shape the NASL back in the day.
What makes the book unique is that it features players, some larger than life, who played not necessarily for the money, but for the love of the game.
Plus, you don’t have to read it from cover to cover. You can skip around from section to section or from player to player. Horne even puts in some commentary on what he has thought about players.
The book gives a rich history of each player who made an impact during the NASL’s 17-year existence.
That includes players from England, Africa, Caribbean and South America.
Horne even has written tributes to some players who didn’t necessarily play in the league, including 1950 World Cup hero Joe Gaetjens and former U.S. men’s national team midfielder Earnie Stewart, who is U.S. Soccer’s sporting director.
It’s definitely worth a read. And if you are into soccer history, it is a book that you need to add to your collection.
As a writer, I look at Horne’s book as a great research guide of great players from the past.
For new or old fans of soccer, it is a fabulous education resource.