People either loved Eric or hated him in his playing days, particularly in his time at Manchester United, but the one thing nobody could do was ignore him. Although he was a skilful and gifted player, he may not have been one of the most technically talented players in football’s history. Despite that, he was good enough and he had a presence and an aura around him like nothing I have seen on the pitch before or since.
After years of my wife simply putting up with my fanaticism about football, it was Eric Cantona who got her interested in the game. That was the power of his magnetism.
He has now been appointed as the director of soccer (football) at New York Cosmos. At this stage, they don’t actually have a team or a stadium, but after the club was relaunched in August by former Tottenham vice-chairman Paul Kemsley, the project is exciting and full of possibilities.
Back in the 1970s, New York Cosmos were a world famous team who even included the great Pele and George Best amongst their players. They won the old North American Soccer League five times between 1972 and 1982, but folded as the game hit the doldrums in the USA in 1985.
It seems likely that the Cosmos will launch a bid to become the twentieth team in Major League Soccer as they have stated an intent to play at the ‘highest level’.
In a statement announcing the appointment of Cantona the Cosmos said that he would provide “innovative leadership” and “cutting-edge creativity”. They are certainly not wrong there! There is no doubt that Cantona is both creative and innovative. Some people describe him as being a little ‘off the wall’ but he is a very bright man.
It is fourteen years ago that Cantona retired from the game at the age of thirty. Since then he has concentrated on beach soccer and an acting career that has seen him play a role in some big movies. As a player Cantona helped Manchester United win five titles in six years and was voted by the fans as United’s greatest ever player.
During his time at United he played one hundred and eighty-five games and scored eighty-two goals. He was voted as players’ player of the season and football writers’ player of the season. He was selected by his fellow professionals in the Premier League team of the season every season he was in England and he was named as the overseas player of the decade.
Despite that amazing record he is probably most famous for his ‘kung fu’ attack on a fan at Crystal Palace and for his interesting and slightly unusual comments at press conferences. When he returned to the game after his ban for the ‘king fu kick’ Cantona was asked how he felt he would deal with the constant scrutiny of the press into his behaviour. He replied, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.” With that, he left the room!
Looking back on his career in 2007, Cantona said, “I have a lot of good moments, but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.” There is no doubt that Eric is his own man!
Speaking after his appointment as director of soccer at New York Cosmos, Cantona said,
“It’s a wonderful project. It’s kind of a mix between football and art. The Cosmos are very strong, beautifully made, with a great past. I will do everything that I can to help us first find our way to regain the number one position in the United States and then for us to become one of the best clubs in the world over the coming years.”
It is great that Cantona is back in the game but I am a little jealous that he has chosen to go to the USA. I wish he was involved in England. It will be a bumpy ride for the Cosmos but it is now guaranteed to be anything other than boring.
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Forget Lebron James, ERIC CANTONA IS KING!!!
Yes indeed, the King is back!