NEW YORK CITY — One of the greatest soccer players of all time, Pele was the face of the New York Cosmos in their heyday — and the Brazilian legend will be part of the club’s second incarnation Saturday night.
Pele, the Cosmos' honorary president, and Carlos Alberto will join the family of the late Giorgio Chinaglia for the pre-game ceremonies before the Cosmos take on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m.
The three played in front of sellout crowds at Giants Stadium and received worldwide notoriety in the late 1970s for the original Cosmos.
“We can never forget the great memories of playing for the Cosmos,” Pele said in a statement on the team’s website. “It’s good to have the team back, and to involve my friend and captain Carlos Alberto, along with the family of Giorgio Chinaglia.”
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele, 72, is known as one of the greatest soccer players ever. He began his career with famed Brazilian club Santos and scored 619 goals in 638 appearances over the course of 19 years and also scored 77 goals in 92 appearances with his national team, leading Brazil to three FIFA World Cup titles.
Pele made worldwide headlines when he signed with the Cosmos on June 10, 1975 and scored 31 goals in 56 matches, leading the club to the Soccer Bowl title in 1977.
While there are no Peles or Carlos Albertos on these Cosmos, who are kicking off their first season in the second-tier North American Soccer League, the team does feature 36-year-old Marcos Senna, who competed for Spain 28 times, including the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Euro 2008.
The former Spanish international central midfielder, known for his passing range, long-distance shot and penalty kick prowess, played 11 seasons in Spain’s La Liga, leading Villarreal to the Champions League semifinals.
Long Island native Carlos Mendes, a veteran defender who played for the New York Red Bulls, is the squad’s captain. The Cosmos also feature David Diosa, a 20-year-old Colombian-born Jackson Heights resident who is the first player to graduate from the Cosmos youth academy to the professional squad, and Sebastian Guenzatti, a 21-year-old midfielder who grew up in College Point and was a standout at Francis Lewis High School.
Leading up to Saturday’s anticipated opening match, Pele and Senna will participate in a ceremonial lighting of the Empire State Building Thursday — the building will be lit in Cosmos green — and Carlos Alberto, Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese, Senna and a few of his teammates will ring the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange Friday afternoon.
As was the case when the Cosmos made their debut in 1971, the club will call Hofstra University home for their first season, but there are hopes of building a 25,000-seat stadium at Belmont Park in Elmont, a plan that includes a 175-room hotel, retail space and a new public park.