The I.S.A. Collection

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Birth of The Cosmos: 40th Anniversary of the New York Cosmos - Part 3


The International Soccer Archives series chronicling the 40th Anniversary of the New York Cosmos features several "firsts"including artifacts and interviews.

By the time Andy Mate was signed for the North American Soccer League's newest club, he was 31 years old. The New York Cosmos entry into the 3 year old professional circuit relied heavily on the popular amateur and semi-pro organizations like the German-American Soccer League to bolster its squad.

When the Cosmos debuted in 1971, Andy Mate had already spent half his life as a professional footballer and featured on 3 continents and known by 3 different names. Political circumstances prompted him to leave his native Hungary as a 16 year old during the 1956 Revolution.

Born Mate Andras (last name first as many Europeans are addressed), Andy was a promising youth player for the Pest side of the Hungarian Capitol's soccer team. Ujpest Dozsa was one of the city's many talent filled clubs of the 1950's. Mate, following in the footsteps of his idol Ferenc Szusza (for which Ujpest's home stadium isnamed) had already been selected for Hungary's youth team when he felt the upheaval of unrest that landed him in America.

The taste of international soccer was rich in New York as the city hosted the best touring teams in the world. Within a few seasons Andy found himself along with other Hungarian refugees playing for New York Hungaria in the German-American Soccer League (GASL).

Mate, still only 20 years old, found himself a regular pick for the league's All-Star selection exhibition matches against German clubs Eintracht Frankfurt, 1860 Munich, Schalke 04 and even scoring against both Manchester United and Sheffield United.

The Hungaria club won five consecutive GASL league titles before winning "The Double" in 1962. The coveted U.S. Open Cup triumph included defeating the two time holders and A.S.L. Champions - Ukrainian Nationals in the semi-finals. A three goal victory behind the scoring prowess of Andy Mate, who netted twice in the Final, qualified the New Yorkers for the 1963 Concacaf Champions Cup.

(Champions of the United States - New York Hungaria. Andy Mate: back row, center)

In September of 1962, Hungaria toured the Middle East sweeping all opposition with 9 wins and 4 draws in official US Soccer sponsored matches. Mated tallied 19 goals on the tour.

In the 1963 Concacaf competition Hungaria defeated Mexican club Deportivo Oro on 5 goals by Andy, including a hat trick in the 1st leg played at the opponent's Jalisco Stadium.

This consistent stellar play did not go unnoticed as offers came from several international clubs. Despite his European roots and performances against German sides, Mate opted to sign for a South American team.

(American futbolista wearing the Cali shirt)

Andy later explained that his all-star selections in America had crossed paths with Luis Cesar Menotti (1978 World Cup winning manager). who was already contemplating coaching. Menotti's contact with Deportivo Cali of Colombia landed Mate with a contract. Andy starred with 4 Brazilians, 3 Argentinians and 3 Colombians that made up that Cali side. His name and picture often appeared in the newspapers published "team of the week" as Andy Matte !

(Andy Mate - a.k.a. Matte - Deportivo Cali hero immortalized on a Colombian souvenir)

In later years Andy admitted that between the stiffling heat of South America and his ties to New York prompted him to return to his new American home - or so he thought.

All this changed when West Germany’s League newly crowned Bundesliga Champions toured America. On May 17th 1964 Hamburg SV played the German-American all-Stars at Downing Stadium. Mate, who was back with New York Hungaria, was stellar for the select side and scored the winning goal.

Ten days later, Andy lined up for the US National Team for their “forgettable” match against England. He earned his one and only cap in the 10:0 drubbing in New York. Still, there were said to be offers from European clubs like Schalke 04 and Rapid Vienna.

However, West German football was only in its second year of fully funded professional club soccer. and in its infancy, many Bundesliga players still held other jobs. The Bundesliga now had the means to pursue international talent like England, Italy and Spain. Hamburg SV featured the legendary Uwe Seeler, a super star scorer for the German National Team as well as the club. Adding to Hamburg’s goal getting attack for the 1964-65 season would be 21 year old Andy Mate. The transfer fee went to New York Hungaria.

(1964 Budesliga player - Hamburg SV)

Seeler was injured for the beginning of the year and Mate filled in admirably scoring a pair of goals. Almost four years to the day, Mate would play against Manchester United again - this time featuring George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton. In another pre-season exhibition with Hamburg, Andy would have mixed emotions as they hosted and defeated the National Team of Hungary 4 to 1. While management had hoped Seeler and Mate partnership would lead to another title, it do not. Mate sums it up to the loyalty to Seeler and the egos that often go with goal scoring kings.

When the situation at Hamburg did not pan out, Mate, a tool and die maker by trade, returned to New York. American soccer was also trying to establish the professional level of the game. In the early 1960‘s the USA had imported international teams for several years to play short summer tournaments. With moderate success, several leagues sprouted in America lured by television money and the publicity of the 1966 World Cup.

Andy participated with Philadelphia Spartans and the New York Generals (where he was reunited with Menotti) in many of these professional ventures. By the time he signed a contract with the NASL expansion New York Cosmos in March of 1971, he was 31 years old and one of New York’s most traveled players.

Andy Mate was scheduled to start in the Cosmos inaugural league match, but was injured in the Cosmos’ first pre-season game. While Andy had to have a cartilage operation on his knee, the club signed Randy Horton as a replacement during his recovery. Mate did return near the end of the season. On his long-awaited league debut at Yankee Stadium he scored twice !
(The New York Cosmos game program - 1971)

Andy Mate spent 13 years playing soccer in New York and may easily be considered the Cosmos’ first international star.

Special thanks to John Mate for contributions to this article.