Giorgio Chinaglia: 1947–2012

Former Lazio, Italy, and New York Cosmos star Giorgio Chinaglia died yesterday, succumbing to complications following a heart attack. He was 65.

A burly, skillful striker, Chinaglia is the North American Soccer League’s alltime leading scorer, with 242 goals in 254 regular-season and playoff appearances for the Cosmos.

He played alongside Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, and Carlos Alberto in New York, among many other stars, and may have outshined them all. The Cosmos won four NASL titles in Chinaglia’s nine years with the team, capturing the trophy in 1977, ’78, ’80 and ’82. The pinnacle of his U.S. career came in 1980, when he scored 32 goals in the regular season and an incredible 18 in seven playoff games to lead the Cosmos to the championship.

Got 15 minutes? Here are all 50 of Chinaglia’s goals from 1980, including seven in one game against the Tulsa Roughnecks (see the 10:45 mark):

Gotta love that sign-off. “You got 50 for the year, George. How do you top that?” “Not bad, not bad. We’ll try again next year.”

We also enjoyed Cosmos announcer Jim Karvellas—who died in 2007—and his call on Chinaglia’s penalties: “He winds…fires…goal!”

H/T to the Striker Liker.

RIP Gary Speed, 1969–2011

This week’s news that former Wales and Premier League star Gary Speed had committed suicide was as mysterious as it was shocking.

The former winger, who stands third on the alltime list of Premiership appearances (behind David James and Ryan Giggs), hanged himself at his home, 45 miles outside of Manchester, just hours after appearing on television and taking in a game at Old Trafford with former teammate Alan Shearer.

Dan Walker, the host of Football Focus, the BBC program Speed had taped on the afternoon of Nov 26, described the Welshman as being “in fine form.”

Shearer sensed nothing amiss while the pair watched Man U take on their old club, Newcastle, at Old Trafford. Speaking to the Daily Mail, the former England striker described Speed as follows:

“[He was] happy, joking. We were having the normal mickey taking that we do out of each other and having a laugh and joke about golf trips and holidays that we went on together last year. We were planning our next holiday in Portugal next summer with the families and the kids.”

Speed leaves behind his wife, Louise, 41, and sons Edward, 14, and Thomas, 13.

Wales FA Chief Jonathan Ford said “we may never know” the reasons for Speed’s action, and those who knew Speed well insisted he was not suffering from depression.

Whether or not Speed was battling depression, his death could serve to raise awareness of that illness. Incredibly, the night before Speed’s suicide, another famous former Premier League star, Stan Collymore, posted a long essay to his Twitter feed, detailing his own battles with the disease (h/t to Martin del Palacio at BigSoccer).

You can read the entire post here. Below are a couple of eloquent excerpts:

“If your mind is empty, your brain ceases to function, your body is pinned to the bed, the future is a dark room with no light and this is your reality, it takes a massive leap of faith to know that this time next week, life could be running again, smiling, my world big and my brain back as it should be. So what do some do? They don’t take the leap of faith, they address a practical problem with a practical solution to them, and that is taking their own life. And sadly, too many take that route out of this hell”.

“I’m typing and my brain is full, cloudy and detached but I know I need to elaborate on what I’m going through because there are so many going through this that need to know it’s an illness, just an illness. Not bad, mad, crazy or weak, just ill.”

By serving to amplify Collymore’s message, and raising awareness of the issue, the awful coincidence of Speed’s suicide could have a silver lining.

Now here’s a clip of fans of Leeds United, where Speed began his career in 1988, chanting “Ohh Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary Speed” at the club’s match yesterday:

They started in the 11th minute (Speed wore No. 11) and kept it going for 11 minutes.

Bobby Rhine: 1976–2011

As you’ve probably heard, former MLS attacker Bobby Rhine passed away on Monday night, suffering a heart attack at age 35.

Rhine was a consistent and underrated player in his day, and went on to become one of the most beloved members of the FC Dallas organization in his post-playing career. He worked in the Hoops’ front office, and, along with broadcast partner Steve Jolley, formed one of the better local-broadcast teams in all of MLS.

Click here for a heartfelt testimonial to the man from Buzz Carrick at ESPN/Dallas-Fort Worth.

And here is a tribute video from the FCD Communications:

Rhine is survived by his wife, Bevan, and two children.

Paul the Octopus, the Rocky Marciano of Footy Forecasting, Dead at 2

He was fine when his keepers at the Oberhausen Sea Life Center in Germany checked his tank on Monday night, but Paul the Octopus, who correctly predicted the results of eight straight World Cup matches last summer, including the final, did not make it through to Tuesday morning.

He was two and a half years old.

Foul play is not overtly suspected in the death, but there are reports that Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong will be questioned.

A spokesperson from the aquarium in western Germany said there are plans to erect a permanent modest shrine to the invertebrate, who made global headlines during the tournament.

Times will have changed by the time the 2014 World Cup rolls around, but we won’t be surprised if a variety of soothsaying animals are trotted out for match-prediction duties for that tournament. They’ll all be Johnny Come Latelys, almost certainly doomed to the same fate as Paul’s already-discredited imitators, such as Mani the Parakeet (Netherlands to win? Pfffffft).

Yes, like Marciano, and the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Paul will stand alone for years to come.

Sidenote:

This was our favorite ripple effect of the oracular octopod story: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemning Paul as a symbol of all that is wrong with the Western World.

Fernando Rossi: 1949-2010

Fernando Rossi, father of New Jersey-born Italian international Giuseppe, passed away yesterday at the age of 60. No cause of death has been announced.

After taking over the Clifton High School boys soccer team in 1978, Rossi turned it into a New Jersey powerhouse, going 353-95-51 in 23 seasons and winning five straight county championships before stepping down in 2001.

Rossi also coached New Jersey club teams and ran the Rossi-Kasyanenko Soccer Camp in North Jersey. A friend of Backpost competed against Rossi’s youth teams back in the day, and attended his camp for three years. He says the camps “were always well-run, always a lot of fun,” and that “Rossi was a very well-known guy in the area. Extremely passionate.”

His son Guiseppe left New Jersey in his teen years to play for Parma’s youth team. He currently starts for Villareal in La Liga and has aspirations to play for Italy in this summer’s World Cup. He scored two goals against the U.S. in the Confederations Cup last June.

North Jersey.com’s obituary is here, and Ives Galarcep’s heartfelt tribute to the late coach—well worth a read—is here.