- Last Updated: 9:28 AM, April 2, 2012
- Posted: 1:01 AM, April 2, 2012
Giorgio Chinaglia, the most loved and loathed character among a deep cast of intriguing international figures throughout the Cosmos’ brief, fantastic Giants Stadium run in the late 1970s, died yesterday of heart failure at his home in Florida. Chinaglia, 65, who co-hosted a soccer show on SiriusXM with his longtime friend Charlie Stillitano, had recently suffered a heart attack.
Covering the Cosmos — the most famous, corporate-constructed sports team in history — meant one was obligated to despise Chinaglia as a meddler for his so-close relationship with Warner Communications boss Steve Ross (Warner owned the team) that provided Chinaglia strong-armed influence on hiring and firing coaches, for Chinaglia’s on-field disregard for and jealousy of Pele and stars who followed, for his demand for the ball, served just-so, at the top of the box.
But I cherished George because he told the truth — as far as he was concerned, his version. We could argue for hours — pack of Marlboros, bottle of scotch — and we always left on good terms. He knew what he was, how he did it, and he never ran from tough questions, only straight into them. Nothing was off the record.
He was conceited — “I am Chinaglia!” — but only because he was convinced. He honestly thought what was best for him was even better for the North American Soccer League.
He even had strong opinions about the Yankees, whom he loved. I have a photo of Chinaglia, Billy Martin, then managing the A’s, Cosmos public relations man Mark Brickley and me. Good grief, I’m the only one still alive.
One night, the Cosmos were in Toronto, as were the A’s. Despite our soft warnings, Chinaglia begged Brickley and I to take him to meet Martin. Martin smiled for the photo, but had no idea — and didn’t seem interested — that Chinaglia, worldwide, was far more famous than he.
“He seemed kind of hung over,” Chinaglia, a bit disillusioned, said on the way back to the hotel. Brickley and I howled. So did George. We laughed for miles.
Even as a soccer radio/TV analyst, he held to a simple standard: “See it, say it.”
Last year on their SiriusXM show, he scolded Stillitano, in his Italian/Welsh accent (before starring for Lazio in Italy, Chinaglia was raised in Wales, where his Italian-immigrant parents ran a restaurant), “Charlie, don’t compare [Lionel] Messi with [Diego] Maradona, please.”
“Everyone else has, Giorgio.”
“Everyone else,” said Chinaglia, “is an idiot.”
Francesa makes it up as he goes — yet again
Mike Francesa’s 4-F Club — Francesa’s Fabulous Fabricated Facts — last week again offered so much to choose from. But we’ll go with his multiple all-knowing assertion on WFAN that Sean Payton can’t appeal NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend him, that Goodell is “judge and jury” in the matter; it’s a closed deal; there’s no process through which Payton can appeal.Follow @NYPostsports