Randy Garber, a 1971 graduate of Abington Senior High School, was recently featured in an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer titled “Messi can have a Pelé-like impact for MLS, says an Abington native who once defended the Cosmos star”.
According to the article, Garber, who played professionally for four seasons in the North American Soccer League and two seasons in the Major Indoor Soccer League, was assigned to defend legendary soccer star Pelé in a 1975 league championship game in front of 34,189 fans when Pelé a member of the New York Cosmos and Garber was playing for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
“Before the game they discussed it,” Garber said. “They said, ‘Just make it difficult, just mirror him, stay with him. Don’t lose him.’ But the problem was that the Cosmos roster had so many good international players. They connected passes and scored goals at will. You were lucky to just stay close to him.”
The article centers around present-day soccer superstar Lionel Messi’s attempt to help Major League Soccer in the way that Pelé did back then: By mainstreaming a big name in the MLS championship game this Friday.
“I can imagine it’s going to be the same type of situation down in Miami with Messi. That franchise is just going to go through the roof,” Garber said. “A lot of people just traveled to whatever stadium Pelé went to. They just wanted to see him. It’ll be the same with Messi.”
Garber in action during his professional career
Garber, a former Penn State student-athlete, left school when he was selected in January 1975 by the Rowdies in the NASL Draft. Garber went on the win the league’s championship as a rookie and played a game that summer for the U.S. national team.
Since retiring, Garber has spent most of his career coaching Abington youth. He was named the 1996 NSCAA youth soccer coach of the year and the 1997 Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association Coach of the Year. He has coached the Abington Senior High School boys soccer team for over 30 years, during which he was awarded the High School Coach of the Year by the Southeast Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association.
He was inducted into the Abington High School Hall of Fame in 1998 and is also a member of the Mercer County College Hall of Fame, the Southeastern PA Soccer Hall of Fame, and the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame.
For the full article, you can click here. For more on Garber’s playing career, you can click here.
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Photos courtesy of NASLjerseys.com