Festival to feature stars, clinic Event promotes 1994 World Cup

September 11, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

When Werner Roth came to this country and began making his way through the soccer ranks, he never expected to wind up in a movie with Sylvester Stallone.

Thanks to soccer, he did. He and soccer's main legend, Pele, teamed with Stallone and Michael Caine in "Victory," a film in which Allied prisoners of war agreed to a soccer match against Hitler's Germans as an opportunity to escape.

"Pele, Caine and Stallone played for the Allies," Roth said. "I was the main bad guy for Germany."

Roth, 45, former captain of the New York Cosmos, is one of the headliners of Soccer Blast USA, a soccer festival that will he staged tomorrow from noon to 6 p.m. at the Convention Center.

Similar festivals have been or will be held in 36 cities as part of an attempt to stir interest in soccer before the World Cup is held in this country next year.

Roth came to the United States from Yugoslavia at age 7. The Roths settled in New York in Queens, where their neighbors included Germans, Italians and Greeks.

"It was an ethnic melting pot," Roth said. "The major sport was soccer. I started in a youth program and went up through semipro."

Roth wanted to pay his way through Pratt Institute with a soccer scholarship, but it would have covered only $500 of the $4,000 tuition. Instead, he played for a semipro team of Germans and Hungarians to meet his college expenses.

In 1971, after signing with the Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, Roth recalls receiving $68 his first week. Luckily, he was then an employed architect, and made out nicely until Pele arrived to drive up salaries for everybody.

The Cosmos had stars from around the soccer world, but their captain was Roth. In playing for three NASL championship teams, Roth proved that Americans could indeed play soccer.

At tomorrow's festival, from 4:30 to 5 p.m., Roth will play "for us quote-unquote legends" against a team directed by Baltimore Bays coach Kevin Healey.

Healey and Bays assistant Billy Ronson -- both of whom will play -- have rounded up ex-Blast players Scott Manning and Bob McAvan, UMBC coach Pete Caringi and George Barry, assistant coach of the University of Baltimore's 1975 NCAA Division II championship team.

Roth, who retired from the Cosmos in 1979, is a sports marketing consultant.

"These festivals are great for young players," Roth said. "They can play, learn and watch."

SOCCER BLAST USA

What: A soccer festival featuring former stars, a variety of soccer skill games for youngsters, a clinic, an autograph session and a 30-minute game matching the ex-stars against a local team. Persons planning to participate in on-field activities should wear rubber-soled athletic shoes (no cleats).

Who: Werner Roth, former captain of the New York Cosmos; Charlie Cooke, former England national team star and North American Soccer League player; Paul Mariner, a defender on England's 1982 World Cup team; Julie Foudy, a 1990 Stanford All-America and member of the U.S. Women's National team; Kristine Lilly, 1990 college Player of the Year at North Carolina and member of the U.S. Women's National team.

When: Tomorrow, noon to 6 p.m.

Where: Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St.

Admission: $5. Persons who present a MasterCard receipt from a purchase made within the past 30 days will be admitted free.

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