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

Football before 66′ is a bit forgotten, as we started to count from that day and the count is still on as England are still waiting for that very special trophy in international football, and to be back in a big tournament final has not happened since.

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But fore 66′ football also had his history, and one player to mention in front of the final tomorrow is Eddie Firmani, who most of us in our generation knows from his days as manager for New York Cosmos and also a few might remember that he was in charge of another big and major project starting as New York Metro Stars and today more known as New York Red Bulls.

But when you start to read about Eddie Firmani you are looking at a fairy story and a English / Italian love story, even when you know Mr. Firmani is a person born in South Africa. Footballers life can often be fascinating at stages of their careers that you weren’t aware of.

Firmani moved to England in 1950, at the age of 17, leaving his home in Cape Town, South Africa. He joined Charlton Athletic and had a special career starting at The Valley. South African players were sought after being fit and good alternatives as the game lacked enough good athletes in England at the time, and with a possible chance to play in the professional game a number of players emigrated.

Firmani became an instant hit at the prior 1947 FA Cup winner. The Addicks 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. His move was in todays value, a modest £35 000, but 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 regime and being banned from international football at that time. Firmani’s mother was born in Italy and with that confirmed he made the change and became Italian and played three internationals in which he scored two goals, happening from 1956 to 1958.

His best years in football were spent in Italy scoring goals for fun, representing Sampdoria, Inter and Genoa before returning to Charlton Athletic in 1963. He then spent another two year at The Valley from there 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 football league football.

Firmani had started a route to management with Charlton Athletic, but it could have been the full end when he stepped down from his position in 1968. A move to the states became a blessing for Eddie Firmani winning a lot of followers for his impressive work which took him from club to club, being the manager of Tampa Bay Rowdies for two years before taking over 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 in 1984.

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Firmani moved to Middle East football for a number of years during the late 80’s and early 90’s before a North America finishing his football management career with New York Metro Stars in 1996 later to become 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 as very special, being 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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