Israel international striker MORDECHAI SHPIGLER (21) and the well-known Brazil World Cup superstar PELE (10) celebrate a goal during the 1975 campaign for the New York Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League. (www.nasljerseys.com)
Three-time Brazil World Cup superstar PELE came out of semi-retirement with FC Santos to generate headlines throughout the globe and single-handedly save a professional sports league with his signing for the soon-to-become famous NEW YORK COSMOS of the old North American Soccer League in June of 1975.
Pele, as is well known, instantly put soccer on the crowded map of the American professional sports landscape. Playing out of the delapidated Downing Stadium at Randall’s Island under the Triborough Bridge, prior to the Brazil superstar’s arrival, the Cosmos had to give tickets away along with coupons at Burger King. Before too long, the New York Cosmos would be performing before crowds in excess of 70,000 at the newly-constructed Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
MORDECHAI SPIEGLER is, to this day, the all-time scoring leader for the Israel national team having recorded 29 goals in 70 full international matches; a native of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics born towards the end of the Great Patriotic War in 1944, the long-time FC Maccabi Netanya striker scored the only goal Israel has ever scored at the final tournament of a FIFA World Cup in 1970 — the same year Pele lifted the famous golden trophy for the last time with Brazil.
Spiegler, who went by the spelling ‘Shpigler’ with the Cosmos, signed for New York in the NASL after two campaigns in France and had scored 10 goals in 13 games during then-second division side Paris St. Germain’s promotion-winning season in 1973-74.
Pele made his debut for the Cosmos against the Dallas Tornado on June 15, 1975, at Downing Stadium, in a match that was televised nationally by the CBS network. The sellout crowd of 22,500 easily set a new American pro soccer record. Having signed during the middle of the season, Pele only played nine games but did score five goals for New York his first year in the NASL — including the equalizer on his debut.
Perhaps less well-rememeberd, Shpigler, with future Philadelphia Fever star JOEY FINK, finished as joint top scorer for the New York Cosmos that season having shot six goals in 17 league games.