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GUARDING PELE: Security was super important for Cosmos star – frontrowsoccer.com

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It was Tommy Mulroy guarding Pele on the field, and the Cosmos superstar had his own guard, or bodyguard, off the field.

Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Pedro Garay remembered the incident well. It was he in 1975 and Pele and the New York Cosmos were visiting the Boston Minutemen.

“We were at Boston University’s Nickerson Field. From my understanding, they sold 21,000 tickets in an 11,000-capacity stadium,” Garay told me years ago.

“The fans were around the field like Ali. Pele scored a goal but it was disallowed due to a foul. I found him and put a drape over him.At that time it was important to keep my head down and not hurt myself.”

Punches were thrown and kicks attempted, but Pele and Garay, a 39-year-old Cuban refugee, survived. Garay, who became Pele’s bodyguard, made sure it never happened again.

[Garay left during the 1959 revolution for the USA. He worked for a while as a credit and collections manager for New York hotels, according to newspaper reports. There also were reports that Garay was part of the United States’ Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba in April 1961. Then 37, Garay was moonlighting as a security man for Warner Communications (the Cosmos’ owners) when he was asked to be Pele’s bodyguard.

“Rumor was that he had been involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion, but I never got any sort of ‘proof,’ “ said Jim Trecker, the former Cosmos public relations director who went onto similar capacities with the NASL and World Cup USA 1994. “I always wondered whether it was a self-mythology.”]

Unsurprisingly, Cosmos president Clive Toye was adamant about security in games going forward. “Unless I’m personally sure he’s safe and Pele won’t be playing in Rochester or anywhere else in America.” It’s a person. [Boston]I’m going to keep him safe even if I have to keep the US Marines. “

The Marines weren’t needed for the game in Rochester, but a club-record 14,562 fans packed into Holleder Stadium. It turned out to be a historic night for Rochester sports as another 14,081 fans (largest crowd at Silver Stadium in nine years) watched the Rochester Red Wings lose to the Toledo Mud Hens (Baseball fans were out to see a list of baseball personalities post-game fireworks, led by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn and former Red Wings).

Pele’s departure from Holleder after a 3-0 win was very different from Nickerson’s departure. Fans stood outside the Cosmos locker room instead of heading home, expecting an autograph with the superstar.Garay was forced to use a different strategy.

“Many people were hanging out to approach Pele, touch him, ask for his autograph, or put Pedro on the bus. [Warner Communications head of security]Lou Luca and I built a three-man wedge that kind of blocks running backs, with Pele at the center,” said Charlie Kattone, executive editor of Sportsview Interactive, who was working at Cosmos at the time. .

Pele left the stadium and headed to Washington, D.C., where he met President Ford the next day.

Although he downplayed his role as Pele’s bodyguard, he accompanied the Brazilian soccer superstar to ensure safety from particularly unruly crowds.

At the time, Pele was one of the few athletes in the world with bodyguards. In 1973, when he followed Ruth’s baseball home run record, Atlanta’s Henry Braves’ Aaron held the record for months after death threats were made against him. rice field.

“Originally he [Garay] Primarily a bodyguard, over time he also became Pele’s personal assistant,” said Professor Julio Mazzei, a close friend of Pele’s. “He’s mostly with Pele. He’s become a great brother.”

Garay adds: Pele doesn’t need bodyguards. i am not armed

“I like security, but I’m not going to turn the stadium into a police state.”

Garay left Cuba during the 1959 revolution. After leaving the Caribbean, he lived in Miami and New York City.He had a side job as a security guard at Warner Communications [the Cosmos’ owners] When he was asked to be the bodyguard of the Black Pearl.

“Pele is a very kind person,” Garay said. “He’s very humble. He’s not controversial. He’s not a costume. When you see him in public, he’s really him.”

Garay noted that there have been no major incidents since the Boston shootings.

“The Boston incident was the worst security issue we’ve ever had,” he said. “It was an overreaction of people wanting to see Pele, wanting to touch him. Most teams in the league really work together. They really understand where you come from.”

The Lancers teamed up with the Cosmos the next time he played for Rochester in 1977. They manned the stadium and parking lot with 20 police officers, 12 more than usual, general manager Dick Kraft said. Ten security guards have been added to control crowds at a location where fans are known to be noisy.

A 3,000-seat temporary bleachers will be installed at the east end of the stadium to accommodate the expected overflow of spectators. There were ten ticket sellers instead of the usual two.

The Lancers also provided the Cosmos with a police escort to the stadium.

“It’s a first for us,” Garay said. “There’s a fence around the field, but I don’t think it’s a problem. I want to talk to them about security in the changing room area. Two years ago, there were a lot of fans asking for autographs,” he said.

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