Posted: 12/22/2010


       I still have the bumper sticker somewhere. It promotes the San Antonio Thunder of the North American Soccer League (NASL) or NON American Soccer league to its detractors, and their new star BOBBY MOORE. They also had Bob McNab and Bobby Clark.

      The year was 1976, their second and last season and I went to The Alamo City to watch The Thunder host The New York Cosmos, with their multitude of international stars.  Besides wanting to watch the match in Alamo Stadium, I had a rare chance to get one of my favourite photos autographed. You may remember the image of Moore and Pele shaking hands after the 1970 World Cup match in Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara in the group stages which also included Czechoslovakia and Romania.

     England were the defending champions and lost 1-0 to Brazil that day. I was in the stadium in the midday sun(for European TV) and it was full a couple of hours early. The Brazilians had handed out their flags to all the poor people that lined the route from town. England, who stayed in the downtown Hilton, had brought their own bus by ship, and lost the PR battle when they refused to travel in the Mexican bus decorated for each of the 16 teams in their own logos.

    It was a sweltering day, and fluttering around the inside of the stadium was a dove with a small Brazilian flag attached. Despite an incredible save from Gordon Banks, England lost 1-0 that day. Brazil went on to win their third World Cup and I was lucky enough to be in Estadio Azteca to see them beat Italy 4-1.

     The referee in Guadalajara was 24 year old Abraham Klein of Haifa, Israel, who with other referees was staying at my hotel Camino Real on the outskirts of the city. Each siesta I joined in a match on the hotel lawn with ex players. I remember Garry Sprake, Mike England, Billy Bremner, Danny Blanchflower and others on my team. We finished with an afternoon buffet by the pool. England players wives were staying there and Earl Harewood of the FA and still President of Leeds United. He caused a stir by hauling himself out of the pool and his swimming trunks didn't make it!

    Klein had been chosen by another later friend of mine, Ken Aston, who was in charge of the referees, because the unknown Israeli was very fit. You may remember that after the 1966 quarter final, England v Argentina at Wembley that there was confusion when Antonio Rattin was sent off. On his way home to Ilford in Essex after that match, Aston stopped at traffic lights. He then came up with the brilliant idea of yellow card for caution, and red for stop and get off the field.

    ANYWAY, forward to San Antonio 1976. I went first to the Cosmos hotel and had Pele sign and then to the hotel where Moore and The Thunder were having a press conference and so both signed for me. Mission accomplished.

      I can't remember the result but I do know that the crowd was waiting to invade the field afterwards to hug and touch Pele. He and his club had different ideas. There was a big gate on the far side of the stadium. Near the end, when Pele was near there, the gate opened and he hopped over the wall surrounding the pitch and ran for the open gate and a waiting limo. Another Mission Accomplished. At the end of the season The Thunder moved to Hawaii.