For a time, probably a long time, almost all the players in U.S. soccer will be aliens—Yugoslavs, Englishmen, Germans, Italians, Latin Americans, etc. ad infinitum. There just are not enough American players of professional caliber to come close to filling the rosters. It is a polyglot situation and has led to a problem. How are players and coaches, speaking a mess of languages, to understand each other? Well, NPSL teams have been sending their players and coaches to Berlitz classes. A 700-word vocabulary is considered sufficient for the purposes of plotting strategy, directing play and arguing with the referee.
Recruitment of foreign players has not been without its headaches. Since FIFA does not recognize the NPSL, it has put the threat of expulsion in the way of every foreign player tempted by that league. Indeed, Sir Stanley Rous, president of FIFA, holds that the only country in the world where the league could sign good players without offending FIFA is Red China.
"The rebel league [NPSL] must realize," Sir Stanley said, "that it is my duty to deal with national associations and not leagues or individuals. I have done my best to get them to join USSFA. The USSFA have told me that they have made repeated invitations to the rebel league to join them, and their advances have been rejected. They just do not seem to want to conform to rules and regulations."
Denis Follows, secretary of England's Football Association, has said of the NPSL: "These people are now outside international football law. Any dealings with them carry the threat of permanent suspension. Any player who goes over there [to the U.S.] should do so with full knowledge of the consequences." Follows' stern warning has been echoed by the English players' "trade union," the Professional Footballers' Association. The Swiss Soccer Federation announced that players and trainers who sign with the NPSL can never again play in their own countries.
But nowhere in Europe was indignation about the "American raiders" more pronounced than in Germany, where enthusiasm had been the first reaction to word that professional soccer was taking form in the U.S. After the appearance on the recruiting scene of Al Kaczmarek, German-born American representative of the NPSL, the response was drastically reversed, and the very respectable Munich newspaper S�ddeutsche Zeitung was moved to headline: SOCCER GANGSTERS AT WORK.
Kaczmarek's description of his proselytizing technique is wonderfully reminiscent of the methods used until this year by the AFL and NFL in recruiting American college football players. Taking fancy suites at luxury hotels, Kaczmarek met with the players secretly.
"We warned them," he explained, "not to notify the press nor to tell their teams. We didn't want to push these fellows. I showed them pictures of Soldier Field and Atlanta Stadium. I told them about America, that there they would find a better country, make a better living and be with better people. We told them that they would be able to go to college and that we would pay their transportation over there. In general, we offered salaries of about $25,000."
"About" is an elastic word. Some players have been signed for as little as $7,000, and NPSL owners have described average salaries as "in the teens." In the beginning an informal effort was made to have each NPSL team agree to limit its total salary budget to $200,000, but this was found to be possibly illegal because of antitrust restrictions and, as one owner noted, "impractical once the bidding began."
The basic reluctance of the NPSL to join USSFA, and thereby FIFA, may stem from the high cost of obtaining players under FIFA regulations. Transfer fees required from the "buying" team for top-ranked soccer players can be enormous. For instance, Luis Su�rez, the Spanish player with Internazionale of Milan, makes an estimated $42,000 a year, plus perquisites like advertising endorsements. When he was transferred from Barcelona to Internazionale in 1961 the fee came to $397,600. The world-record transfer fee is $680,400, paid by Roma for Angelo Sormani in 1963.
The NPSL has dug into its pockets for some modest transfer fees, but in the main it has been signing older players whose contracts have expired or youngsters who have no immediate prospect of making a foreign team. There have been instances in which exaggerated notions of American wealth have led to curious dickering. One Mexican team offered to sell its star player to an American club for $45,000. The club rejected the deal but politely inquired how much the whole team would cost. The rebuffed Mexicans thought it over and replied, "fifty thousand dollars."