Queens, NY - In a once in a lifetime opportunity, New York Cosmos fans competed in a penalty shot contest where the winner would meet the great Pelé.
Contestants arrived to Flushing Meadows Corona Park at Field 3 to participate in a single elimination penalty shoot-out. From 12 yards away, contestants had four open targets to choose from. If a contestant scored, he/she would automatically advance to next round. This would go on until the winner was declared.
With samba drums playing in the background, players lined up in orderly fashion and waited for their turn to kick. While the music harmoniously played on, the soccer fans in attendance behaved as if they were in a golf tournament, remaining silent out of respect for each contestant who was in the process of taking their shot.
To be honest, I don’t know who was more nervous, the penalty shot takers or the audience respectfully supporting them. The only time the audience would verbally react was when they were asked to make some noise after the contestant had taken his/her penalty shot. Once the bail sailed to its designated target, the audience would “ohh and ahh” the cruel feeling of rejection if the ball would not connect to its target.
After almost three gut-wrenching rounds of penalty shooting, a winner had yet to be determined. Just as it appeared that another round of penalty shots would take place, Matteo Mastrella scored the decisive penalty shot! Following his shot, a celebration kicked off with the audience clapping loudly and cheering Mastrella.
However, everyone present was made aware that one more contestant had to take his final and potentially-tying penalty shot. Almost instantly that feeling of relief was replaced with nervous tension, as the final contestant took his last possible tying shot to stay in the competition.
He took his shot and the kick was good, but the target was slightly off. With that miss, Matteo Mastrella was declared the winner of the 2010 Penalty Shot Contest.
Showing a wonderful display of good sportsmanship, the other contestants congratulated Matteo and cheered him on as his award was being presented.
When asked about his victory, Matteo replied, “I feel very glad because Pelé is an important figure worldwide. I’m also happy because I’m a fan of Lazio from Rome and of Giorgio Chinaglia. I know the Cosmos' history. I watched a game in Rome when Lazio played against the New York Cosmos in 1983. I have an appreciation for the New York Cosmos."
On a day where contestants competed to meet Pelé, Shep Messing’s famous description of the New York Cosmos was vibrantly echoed on Field 3 of Flushing Meadows Corona Park:
“We transcended everything, every culture, every socioeconomic boundary. We were international, we were European, we were cool, and we were Americans from the Bronx. We were everything to everybody.”
Many years later, those sentimental words of the New York Cosmos ring true in 2010.
Cesar Diaz covers soccer for Latino Sports. Please e-mail him your questions and comments to email@example.com.