Eddie Firmani, a special man and one to mention when England play Italy

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Football before 66′ is a bit forgotten. We started to count in football from that day England won the World Cup. After that great win England are still waiting for a trophy.

But we all know that also before 66′ football had it’s history. One player to mention in front of the Euro’s final tomorrow is Eddie Firmani, who is mostly known for newer generations as manager of New York Cosmos, but has since then also been in charge at New York Metro Stars, today known as New York Red Bulls.

When you start to read about Eddie Firmani you are looking at a fairy story. An English / Italian love story. Mr. Firmani was born in South Africa, but footballers life can often be fascinating with travels and episodes that fascinate.

Firmani moved to England in 1950, at the age of 17, leaving his home town Cape Town. He joined Charlton Athletic and had a special career The Valley. South African players were highly rated just after WW2, being fit and good alternatives as the game lacked enough good athletes in England at the time. With a great chance of playing for those English teams a number of players emigrated.

Firmani became an instant hit. Charlton Athletic were in these times a top level team and had been that during those last decades. Firmani scored 50 goals in 100 league appearances before making the move to Italian football and signing for Sampdoria. The transfer fee, £35 000, was at that time a record fee for a player in Britain.

The move to Italy worked wonders for Firmani who had no chance to play at international level for South Africa, with their Apartheid rules very much in function and their nation were banned from international football at that time.

Firmani’s mother was born in Italy, so Eddie could play for them. He became Italian and from 1956 to 1958 played three times for the national team, scoring two goals.

His best years in football were spent in Italy. Representing Sampdoria, Inter and Genoa. He returned to Charlton Athletic in 1963. Two new years at The Valley, then joining Southend United, and in 1967 returning to Charlton Athletic for a third spell before hanging up his boots and continue his work as manager for this football club.

After his retirement as a player he had build up a very special record that’s never been broken to date, being the only player to have scored 100 goals in Italian and English league football.

Firmani had started his route to management with Charlton Athletic, but it could have been the full end when he stepped down from his position in 1968. Eddie Firmani later moved to the NASL and did impressive work which took him from club to club, being the manager of Tampa Bay Rowdies for two years before taking over at New York Cosmos in 1977 staying for two years, and from there touring around and taking charge of several clubs with a short return to New York Cosmos again in 1984.

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Firmani moved to Middle East football in the late 80’s and the early 90’s before he returned to North America finishing his football management career with New York Metro Stars in 1996, later to become the New York Red Bulls.

Tomorrow England will play Italy in the final of the Euro’s and Eddie Firmani will be a man to remember. The only player, born in South Africa, and not even Italian or English, to have this special goalscoring record, a glorious fun fact.

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