Pele and the Cosmos reunited
Emirates Airline sponsors some of the biggest names in world soccer, including Real Madrid, AC Milan, Arsenal and Paris Saint-German, so what was it doing Tuesday with its name on the jersey of a team that hasn't played a game in nearly three decades and is in a second-tier U.S. league?
The reason was that it was the jersey of the newly revived Cosmos, who owe their existence in very large part to a brand that remains powerful around the world, even after all these years.
"It's amazing," honorary team president Pele said at a Manhattan news conference attended by several other former Cosmos, at which the team unveiled white and green jerseys with "Fly Emirates'" emblazoned on them.
Pele said while he rarely gets questions about his longtime Brazilian club, Santos, questions about the Cosmos never cease.
"I arrive in China, I arrive in Africa and they say, 'Listen, what happened to the New York Cosmos?' " Pele said.
There will be a new answer beginning Aug. 3 when the team opens its NASL schedule at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium. The plan is to play there until a proposed 25,000-seat stadium in the Belmont Park parking lot can be constructed.
Seamus O'Brien, the team's chief executive, said that project remains on hold while the political process unfolds. But there is a season to prepare for; O'Brien urged patience.
"I hope we're going to sell out from Day One, of course," he said. "I hope we're going to win the league. I am sure as hell every day in the office going to make sure that's what we try and do. But I'm a realist."
The Cosmos will enter a market that already has the MLS Red Bulls and in 2015 will add a new MLS team co-owned by Manchester City and the Yankees.
Can New York support three pro soccer teams?
"Firstly, we're not scared of competition," O'Brien said. "I think in any sport or walk of life that's a good thing. And I think the soccer economy of this city is more than large enough to deal with three teams that will probably be based in three reasonably distinctive areas."