© Lisl Steiner
1977. Training room of the New York Cosmos clubhouse.
Franz Beckenbauer — who has began playing with New York Cosmos on May 29, 1977, coming from Bayern Munich with which he has played during 1976, winning both Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and Intercontinental Cup on December 21, 1976 against Cruzeiro, as well as being named Ballon d´Or 1976 as a player of the German team — is in the bathtub talking to Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State of the United States — he had left office a few months before, on January 20, 1977 — , while the defender Werner Roth is also resting in the water.
Five years have elapsed since the arrival of Edson Arantes Do Nascimento "Pelé" to United States New York Cosmos club of the NASL (North American Soccer Association) in June 1975, hired by Clive Toye (General Manager of New York Cosmos) after five years of negotiations with the financial support of the brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun (owners of Atlantic Records) and Steve Ross (CEO of Time Warner Inc. and Warner Communications), the latter being the key man in the effort to turn soccer into a major sport within USA.
The presence of Pelé has been decisive to greatly increase the attendance of people to the stadiums, and the hiring of Giorgio Chinaglia (at the moment one of the best forwards in the world) to reinforce the New York Cosmos line-up in 1976 paid off, making up a lethal attack binomium with Pelé and significantly raising the scoring ability of the team, which has become the best soccer squad in USA.
But during the 1977-1978 season, the club hired two more world class players: Carlos Alberto (the great Brazilian defender who was part of the historical team that defeated Italy 4-1 in the final match of the Mexico 1970 Football World Cup) and particularly Franz Beckenbauer, captain of both Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga (three times champion of Europe) and the German national team and the best sweeper in the world, who only three years before has won the Germany 1974 World Cup, beating Holland 2-1 in the final game.
It turned the New York Cosmos into a great soccer club that won the NASL in 1977 and 1978, with a very brilliant play and scoring a lot of goals.
The level of great buzz built by Franz Beckenbauer among the American soccer enthusiasts has been huge hitherto, and only second to the one generated by Pelé, who retired in 1977, three years ago.
The American fans are utterly aware of the remarkable feats accomplished by Beckenbauer throughout his career as an inventor of the role of attacking sweeper starting from the heart of the defense: his extraordinary performance in the quarterfinals of Mexico 1970 World Cup against England being decisive for the German victory 3-2 in extra time after superating a 0-2, the unforgettable semifinal of the Mexico 1970 facing Italy playing with his arm on a sling, the UEFA Eurocup 1972 and 1974 FIFA World Cup won with Germany, the three consecutive UEFA Champions League trophies won with Bayern Munich (1974, 1975, 1976) and the Intercontinental Cup won in 1976.
Therefore, in 1978 and 1979, the average attendance to the Giants Stadium to watch New York Cosmos live has been roughly 47,000 spectators, an amazing figure for a country in which basketball, baseball, American football and ice hockey are much more widespread sports.
Lisl Steiner at the stairs of the Elizabeth Kaiserin Hotel in Vienna (Austria) in 2015, thirty-five years after getting the pictures of Franz Beckenbauer as a player of the New York Cosmos soccer club of the NASL (National American Soccer Association) with which he won the titles of 1977, 1978 and 1980. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
The photographer Lisl Steiner has managed to get into the training room of the New York Cosmos clubhouse and approaches the three men as much as possible.
Lisl Steiner keeps observing them for some seconds, until she moves to have Beckenbauer as main subject in the background while the German player goes on speaking with Henry Kissinger.
It´s not an easy shot at all, because the presence of a woman inside a men´s locker room is something unusual, so it´s virtually impossible to go unnoticed, and in spite of it, she strives after catching them unaware not looking at the camera, and get a good picture.
She has known Henry Kissinger since late sixties when she photographed him at the United Nations building in New York during a number of political meetings.
Her great experience and patience are fundamental to wait for the best moment to press the shutter release button of her Leica M2 rangefinder camera coupled to a 35 mm lens.
Suddenly, a moment of the conversation comes in which Franz Beckenbauer is staring at Henry Kissinger with resolve in his countenance and his right fist closed, while Werner Roth is visibly exhausted and engrossed.
Kissinger is a great football enthusiast, born in Fürth (Baviera), played as a goalkeeper when he was a teenager, is a great fan of Bayern Munich and saw Franz Beckenbauer play for the first time in the Germany World Cup 1974 final game held at the Munich Olympiastadion and won 2-1 by the host country with decisive goal by Gerd Müller. Besides, he performed a significant diplomatic role in the years of negotiations with Pelé between 1971 and 1975 until attaining to bring him to play in United States — an operation in which Steve Ross and Clive Toye were the key persons — and had become a regular visitor to the New York Cosmos locker-room since the beginning of his heyday years in mid seventies, being a personal friend of Pelé, Beckenbauer and other famous players of the club.
This seems to be the climax instant of the conversation between Kissinger and Beckenbauer, who appears brimming with energy and illusion.
Lisl Steiner realizes it is a defining moment and quickly presses the shutter release button of her camera, bringing about a whispering noise of the shutter release button, almost imperceptible, which greatly enhances the discretion of the photographic act, because a rangefinder camera lacks the swivelling mirror inherent to dslr cameras, and gets a very good picture, successfully passing undetected during that decisive fraction of a second and masterly capturing the intense mutual paying of attention between Kissinger and Beckenbauer while talking.
It is an exceedingly representative picture of the halcyon days of New York Cosmos, which would reinforce even more as a soccer club of the NASL between 1977 and 1981 with the arrival of new international top soccer players like Carlos Alberto, Johan Neeskens, Rivelino, Wim Rijsbergen, Vladislav Bogicevic, Roberto Cabanas and others.