Today I was to have been in Sao Paolo for the Wedding of my friend's son Stefano Hawilla. This was an event I really looked forward to enjoying. I first met Jose Hawilla 20 years ago when I was Commissioner of the American Soccer League. Carlos Alberto Torres, my friend from the Cosmos days, the great Brazilian World Cup Captain and then managing the Miami Sharks in the ASL, brought Hawilla to my office in White Plains to learn about the structure of American Soccer.
But even then, Gordon Bradley, who had coached the same Carlos Alberto at the Cosmos, was one of the founders with Clive Toye and myself of the rebirth of the American Soccer League in 1987. When the bell rang for something new, Gordon was there. He had been there in the early days of the NASL and even before in club soccer on Long Island... he was always there. Gordon died on April 29th.
Today, there was a convergence of two celebrations. One, the marriage of Stefano Hawilla and the other the life of Gordon Bradley. I hated to miss Stefano's wedding. His father and I had enjoyed two decades of working together and is a man of extraordinary character. I would say that his handshake was better than most written contracts.
It is not an accident that Gordon also was a man of exceptional character. Known as the man who coached Pele, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Gordon's Memorial Service gave me the opportunity to relive many of the shared warm memories of a genuine good man.
I could go on at length about the joy of working with Gordon. Always positive and always eager. During the days of our developing league, his team gave me the least problems as the Commissioner. Gordon knew what had to be done and was a true professional about his task. But, better than my words, let me borrow those of some friends who had things to say in the past week.
Jack Bell in the New York Times...
“He, and indeed everyone else in the club, spent more time propagating the gospel of soccer than in simply being coach of a pro team,” Clive Toye, the Cosmos’ first general manager, said in an e-mail message. “If you could take the soccer DNA of many of today’s outstanding U.S. players, you could trace it back to the Cosmos and Gordon Bradley.”Charlie Cuttone writing in Big Apple Soccer said...
Shep Messing, a goalkeeper who once played for Bradley’s Cosmos teams, said in a telephone interview Wednesday, “The greatest thing about Gordon is that whether he was talking to 5 or 6 girls on a field in Massapequa, N.Y., 10 boys at a clinic in New Jersey, 20 college players, or Pelé or Franz Beckenbauer, he was always the same inspirational leader.”
He was a founder of the Massapequa Soccer Club, and played a huge role in the growth of the sport on Long Island back in the days when there were no soccer fields, no soccer stores and no soccer camps.The Long Island Junior Soccer League is the world’s largest soccer league with 1,498 travel teams on Long Island and in Queens.
Gordon was the Johnny Appleseed of it all, cheerfully spreading the game everywhere he went, and touching people along the way. That’s what made him a giant. One that will be deeply missed.
This morning we flew down on the USAir Shuttle from LaGuardia to Washington's Reagan Airport. There was Ted Howard, currently the Deputy General Secretary of CONCACAF but originally the Deputy Commissioner of the NASL who as a young man first coming to New York developed a very close relationship with Gordon, who was the Cosmos' coach and had adjacent office locations; Werner Roth, the former Captain of the Cosmos, who had played against Gordon as a player in the local leagues and then side by side with him on the Cosmos; Shep Messing who was professionally discovered by Gordon. Both Werner and Shep had driven down to Virginia to see Gordon and talk to him, despite his deep Alzheimer's condition the week prior to his death.
Werner and Shep spoke during the tribute and were eloquent and sensitive in emotional remembrances of the times they had shared and the role Gordon had played in their lives and so many others. Dave Johnson was the last speaker who delighted us all with tales of Gordon on the road through 20 years of their collaboration.
This link will take you to Steve Goff's story in the Washington Post following the Memorial Service at George Mason University which captured much of the sense of the day.
After the service, we went back to Paul Bradley's lovely home where old friends gathered to express to Vera, Gordon's wife of 49 years, how much everyone loved and respected him. Bobby Smith, Len Renery, John O'Reilly and Randy Horton (now the Minister of Education in Bermuda) joined the family and friends at the house before each heading their own way with their thoughts of the day and of Gordon firmly in their minds.
Your friends know you are working on the lineup and we will all see you one day.