Published on December 31st, 2022 | by Staples Soccer


Pele: The Westport Connection

The death on Thursday of Pele — the brilliant Brazilian player who transformed soccer internationally, then brought his magic to the US and kick-started the game’s popularity here — was noted by world leaders, top players and ordinary fans around the globe.

Westport played a bit part in his life.

Resident Jay Emmett — vice president of Warner Communications — played a key role in the New York Cosmos’ 3-year pursuit of the Santos star, and in the final contract negotiations of 1975. Emmett continued to play a key role with the Cosmos during Pele’s years there.

Mark Brickley ’70 was the Cosmos’ director of communications. He handled many press requests for Pele, and worked closely with him.

Paul Hunter ’73 played with the Cosmos during their 1977 North American Soccer League championship season. League rules mandated that 3 North Americans be on the field at all times. Hunter — a defender — started in the star-studded lineup, with Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Giorgio Chinaglia and many others.

There were 2 other former Wreckers in the NASL during the Pele years. Both Steve Baumann ’70 (Philadelphia Atoms) and Hunter’s brother Tim ’71 (Connecticut Bicentennials) played against him. Pele scored on a bicycle kick over Baumann — and Hunter scored at Yankee Stadium against the Cosmos.

Another connection: several Westport Soccer Association youth teams coached by then-future and now-former Staples head coach Dan Woog played preliminary games before Cosmos matches at Yankee Stadium in 1976 and Giants Stadium in ’77. They were on the field too at Pele’s famous last game — televised globally, to 42 countries.

Woog wrote about those days in his “06880” blog. Click here to read.


Paul Hunter (front row, far right), 2 players away from Pele. Franz Beckenbauer is in the back row, 2nd from left.

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