A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE: CARL ROSE
One day 20-year-old Carl Rose is playing in a local league in Toronto.
Several days later he finds himself in the limelight, performing with some of the greatest stars of the game and his hero in an indoor soccer competition at the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens in the same city.
Rose, who competed with the New York Arrows and St. Louis Steamers during the early days of the Major Indoor Soccer League, could not believe his good fortune. He was a teammate of the legendary Gordon Banks, of Bobby Moore and Jimmy Greaves on the Canadian team of the World Indoor Football Association in November and December 1973. This is the 50thanniversary of the tournament.
"All I know is I got a call and they said they were playing at Maple Leaf Gardens," Rose said earlier this week. "They were playing indoor, and I was on the Canadian team, with Jimmy Douglas and Kevin Grant, who I played with and played against over the years played on the national team. Jimmy Greaves, who played a couple of games in the 1966 World Cup before he got injured, was my hero when I was in England. I used to watch Tottenham a lot. I just thought he was an unbelievable goal-scorer.”
It could not be ascertained why such English national team stars were on the Canadian squad, although Rose certainly wasn't complaining in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"It was an honor playing with those guys," Rose said. "I don't talk about it much. People ask me stuff and I just kind of brush it off like I've never done anything. I got the photo with them all lined up."
Rose has a sense of pride performing with such an impressive cast of players.
"I was at a soccer thing the other day and then I pulled the photo out on my phone, and I said, "Do you know that guy is? Yeah, that's me.' " he said.
The tournament was the brainchild of local promoter Joe Martin, who lost a reported $70,000 in a much smaller competition called the Toronto Indoor Soccer League at the same venue a year prior.
Fifty years ago, Martin decided to go "bigger and bolder this time around," according to Toronto Star sportswriter Jim Kernaghan.
He did - with an international indoor tournament that probably will never be duplicated. Not with the likes of Eusebio, Jackie Charlton, Tony Simoes and a host of other legendary names to compete over three dates in the WIFA.
Then there were players such as Carl Rose, who wanted to make a name for himself. Rose grew up in London before emigrating to Canada.
"My dad loved the Maple Leafs and I used to watch them a lot. You get to play at Maple Leaf Gardens. You always go there but you never think you got to play there," Rose said with a slight laugh. "I was just a young punk who played with some experienced guys to learn a few things and enjoy myself and show what I can do."
The tripleheader featured six teams, including the Italians, Croatians, Serbians, Portuguese and English. All seats were $3 apiece. According to one advertisement, ladies (that's what it said), senior citizens and youths under 17 paid only half price.
The advertisement also stated:
"Game of the future - Be proud it started in Toronto. With your support we can make it the greatest and most popular indoor game in the world."
Moore captained the English national team that captured the 1966 World Cup. Banks was the goalkeeper. While American audiences might not be as familiar with Greaves, the striker scored 44 goals in only 57 appearances for England before becoming a football broadcaster.
Rose soaked in the experience in many ways.
"It's those lessons," he said. "You watch Bobby Moore bending balls with the outside of his left foot. Gordon Banks had lost his sight in his one eye, but he was still brilliant in goal. And then you're playing against Eusebio and Tony Simoes. You're just learning how quick things go and how fast they go.
"You're thinking, 'Okay, I'm 20-years-old. I'm pretty good at what I do,' and then you see there's another level. If you're a good player, you learn that other level and you learn quickly, you get to see that it's not all about the dribbling and so forth and the moves. It's about playing quick, simple, sharp and getting into positions to do your thing."
Rose did his thing, not as a supplemental player, but taking a regular shift in the first game, an 8-7 victory over the Portuguese side, 8-7, before 11,283 spectators on Nov. 20, 1973. Greaves, who had retired two years prior (he returned to action in 1975), led the way with four goals.
"It was a lot of fun, but my conditioning could be better," he was quoted by the Star.
Rose wasn't too shabby himself, connecting twice.
"That was like a wow factor," Rose said of Greaves. "He's unbelievable, left foot right foot, setting you up and it was just an experience to play with him.
He later added: "My idol, Jimmy Greaves, told me after the game, 'You're a pretty good, kid. I want to tell you one thing. Shoot 100 times. They only remember the goal you score,' I never forgot that, even when I was coaching kids, I would tell them, 'Hey, even if you don't think you can get it, you know you have the shot. If you miss, you miss.' "
In another game on Dec. 3, Rose did himself one better, connecting for a hat-trick in an 8-6 win over Serbia at the Gardens before 7,257 fans.
Eusebio and Moore reportedly received $2,500 a game, according to the Star, which was considered a decent sum for professional soccer players in those days, participating in what was an exhibition game.
"They had a lot of world class players," Rose said. "I'm sure they weren't playing just for the fun of it. I just wanted to play ... especially when you find out who you're playing with, it's like wow!"
According to a story in the Dec. 5 edition of the Star, Martin said that Pele would participate in a pair of indoor games in the Gardens on Dec. 12 and Dec. 18. Pele was to receive $10,000 for two games, the story said. Carlos Alberto, captain of the 1970 World Cup champion Brazilian team, also was slated to play.
At the time, Pele was enduring enough problems at his Santos, Brazil home at the time. A bomb exploded in the garden outside the house on Dec. 1, causing little damage. Over the weekend of Dec. 8, a shot had been fired into his home, with a bullet causing a little damage to the Black Pearl's trophy room. No one was home at the time. in an unrelated matter, Pele also was under pressure to return to play for Brazil in the 1974 World Cup in Germany.
There was talk about the possibility of having a worldwide indoor soccer league, but the costs, particularly traveling from Europe to North America and South American and back, proved to be too costly.
Don Popovic, who directed the Serbian squad at the WIFA before taking the New York Arrows’coaching reins five years later, struggled to get an international indoor league off the ground in 1974.
"A few owners from Toronto in the National Soccer League of Canada decided to make an indoor team and they asked me to find players," Popovic told this writer years ago.
He selected a team of European all-stars to play a South American side. The Euro squad included Republic of Ireland captain Derek Dugan, Nene (Benfica), and Banks. The South American stars boasted Carlos Alberto, and Jomo Santos. South America won, three games to one.
"A world-wide league probably was a mistake," Popovic said. "It would be impossible to play. Think of flying from Brazil to West Germany for games. They couldn't afford it."
And think of the jet lag the players would have to endure, as well.
By itself, the Maple Leaf Gardens tournament did not turn many, if any heads, of owners or millionaires to stage a professional indoor soccer league. There was no earth-shattering impact.
"You can't tell because you don't know if Ed Tepper and Earl Foreman even knew anything about that one," Rose said. "It wasn't publicized as much as you would like to have been publicized. ... A few years later Foreman and then those guys are starting this league."
Foreman and Tepper were co-founders of the MISL.
But as we have learned, history is about links and taking the next step.
In 1974, the Soviet Red Army team ventured to North America to play games against a North American Soccer League all-star team in Toronto, against the NASL champion Philadelphia Atoms and the St. Louis Stars. In the opener of the three-game series, the NASL dropped an 8-4 decision to the visitors on Feb. 7 in front of a crowd of 11,535 at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Soviets closed out the series with an 11-4 romp over the St. Louis Stars at the St. Louis Arena.
The middle match on Feb. 11, in which the Soviets recorded a 6-3 triumph, got much publicityand is considered a big-bang moment for indoor soccer in the United States.
That game, which attracted 11,790 fans at the old Spectrum in Philadelphia, turned the heads of two sports entrepreneurs - Earl Foreman and Ed Tepper. They were excited about what they had seen and decided to start the MISL, which kicked off on Dec. 22, 1978. Rose was a part of that championship side, and Popovic coached it to the first of four consecutive indoor titles behind the likes of the legendary Steve Zungul, Branko Segota and Shep Messing (currently Major Arena Soccer League chairman).
That, however, is another story for another time.
Michael Lewis, the editor of FrontRowSoccer.com, can be followed on Twitter at @SoccerWriter. Lewis can be reached via email at email@example.com. He has written two books" Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers and a sequel, STILL AND ALIVE AND KICKING: The story of the 21st century Rochester Lancers. It has many features about indoor soccer and MASL players. Both books can be purchased at www.RochesterLancersBook.com.