The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
“It’s all about…Cruyff.”
—Eric Cantona, Director of Football, New York Cosmos, 2011
1990* * Not the “1990” of the consensual [a] continuum.: The philosophical inquirer Francis FUKUYAMA appropriates and reconceives the defunct notional entity known variously as The New York Cosmos, The Cosmos, and Pele’s Studio 54 Fantasia. As an actual football team, this construct played its final match in 1985, but Fukuyama—working in clandestine concert with the business operative Peppe PINTON, whom rumours nominate as a fugitive from international justice—reinvents the Cosmos as the world’s first post-historical soccer club. Spared the miscellaneous drudgery of physical existence, the Cosmos thrive in an aether-zone of subcultural subconscious (or some other sub-/sub- combination, varying with Fukuyama’s mood). Fukuyama and Pinton tell no one of their endeavor, which they consider a component of an elaborate occult process they call The Partnership.
2011 : The private investigator Eric CANTONA, working on behalf of a Trans-Atlantic Syndicate, blackmails Fukuyama and Pinton by threatening to reveal “certain details” of The Partnership, and obtains full control over the Cosmos. And also the theoretical football club of the same name.
2014 : The Cosmos make their re-debut in a competition known as Major League SOCCER. Cantona takes his place in the owner’s suite at Stratospheric Financial Sporting Complex, alongside members of the Syndicate, all of whom know each other only by their first names, not all of which should be considered literally real. The national anthem is sung by Robert ZIMMERMAN, a Minnesota troubadour of no fixed address.
The Cosmos XI, managed by a Catalan technician named Josep GUARDIOLA, makes liberal use of the new intelligence-simulacrum and physical reconstructive technologies recently legalized by FIFA in preference to the controversial goal-line video replay proposals. The squad features two recombinant versions of Johan CRYUFF, a Dutch veteran. An entity known as Cryuff67 appears at centre forward, while a variation called Cryuff80 roams the outside wing. Together, the CryuffBots lead the Cosmos to a 3 : 1 victory over the Puerto Rico ISLANDERS, the competition’s defending champions. The Cosmos quickly establish dominance over the Major League circuit.
2017 : An unaccustomed run of poor results precipitates a Syndicate decision to terminate Cantona, who chooses to “renew on Carousel” rather than drift into the irrelevance that swallowed his former colleague Guardiola. The latter, having refused to renew his contract “one time too many” for the liking of the Syndicate, is widely rumoured to live on a secluded Amazonian islet. Classified satellite imagery of the site reveals three contiguous football pitches, where Guardiola may be training one of the Americas’ last pre-contact tribes in tiki-taka.
2018 : Cryuff67 and Cryuff80 both reject software upgrades and cease function in the second half of a crucial “derby” match against Brooklyn ASYLUM FC. The dismaying scene causes revulsion at the highest levels of the game. FIFA President for Life Grant WAHL exercises an obscure eminent domain clause to expel the Cosmos from the American top circuit.
2022[b] : In the wake of the Syndicate-funded paratroop coup against Wahl, and in response to the severe global energy shortage, football competition ceases on most continents. However, a short-duration temporal breach allows the reconstitution of a Cosmos XI featuring both Giorgio CHINAGLIA (age 22) and Tab RAMOS (age indeterminate). The reformed team finds vigorous competition in American Soccer League I, which spontaneously incarnates, using 3-D printing technology, after an antique electronic database called SOVER.NET suddenly becomes sentient. Intense rivalries develop with Todd SHIPYARDS, Holyoak FALCOS and, of course, Fall River MARKSMEN. In the chaos of a disintegrating United States, football finally fulfills its destiny as the nation’s most popular sport. Unfortunately, civil war with the insurgent American Soccer League II will soon destroy SOVER.NET, bringing a brutal end to a brief golden age.
2022[c] : Due to the rapid degeneration of English-language pronunciation and comprehension, the Cosmos’ new managers misunderstand a circa 2011 interview with Cantona. In a misguided bid for “authenticity” in marketing, they proclaim that henceforth the club will be “all about…Clough.” The team hires a gifted mimic to manage the squad in the guise of Brian Howard CLOUGH, deceased. Severe over-consumption of tea and gin coincides with a debilitating number of red-card disqualifications; the combined effect yields both numerous Internet postings by US-born pundits mourning the demise of “the man’s game,” and the Cosmos’ first-ever relegation to MLS Segunda Division.
There, the club lingers in increasing anonymity for many decades, support dwindling, finances deteriorating, obscurity gathering, until one day no players bother to turn up for training. A single lonely equipment man packs a box with green shirts and shorts, binds it with tape, and leaves the parcel on a street corner, marked “FREE.” A passing man—by great coincidence named Peppe PINTON—discovers the box and secrets it in his basement. The days of the Cosmos’ greatest glory have come again.
Zach Dundas is the author of The Renegade Sportsman: Drunken Runners, Bike Polo Superstars, Roller Derby Rebels, Killer Birds and Other Uncommon Thrills on the Wild Frontier of Sports, which can, and should, be bought by you, this instant.
by Zach Dundas · February 22, 2011