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Andranik Eskandarian: The Iranian star

In the first of a new series, Gianluca Lia profiles the iconic Cosmos defender

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In the first of a new series from Twice A Cosmo, Gianluca Lia profiles Cosmos of old. This week, we explore the career of Andranik Eskandarian.

The original New York Cosmos were sexy. They made soccer cool. Their games were unmissable and their appeal was something that even clubs in today’s modern soccer scenario in the United States do not come near to.

All this was possible due to the influx of high-profile names that donned the Cosmos shirt during the golden era. Naturally, when one thinks about the big names who featured for the club from New York, one would think about the Europeans and South Americans. However, one name used to make the crowd go crazy and who still boasts respect from the soccer community in the States is Andranik Eskandarian.

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Born exactly on the last date of 1951 in Tehran, Eskandarian was a gifted defender who made a name for himself, first in his native Iran and then in the North American Soccer League (NASL) once he joined the Cosmos army.

Prior embarking in the United States, Eskandarian claimed the Iranian championship and the domestic cup with Taj SC and his excellent displays, earned him also the chance to represent Iran with whom he won the Asia Cup in 1976, reached the quarterfinals of the football tournament in Montreal 1976 and also represented his country in the World Cup, two years later in Argentina, becoming the first non-Muslim to play for Iran.

In the World Cup, Eskandarian was one of the main players who engineered Iran’s bravery in their historic 1-1 draw against Scotland. He was handed the task to mark a certain Kenny Dalglish, a Liverpool legend, and he was not shy of doing so, earning the praises of those present at the game, in particular journalists.

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Yet, his performances did not only earned the praise of the media, but also of the New York Cosmos who after facing him in an exhibition match between the Cosmos and a selection of players from across the world at Giants stadium.

Interestingly enough, the Cosmos were monitoring Argentina defender Alberto Tarantini who had just claimed the World Cup with his native country but their interest soon shifted on Eski who impressed the game with his defensive skills that struck the Cosmos board.

The Iranian defender was invited by the Cosmos to feature for them in another illustrious exhibition match, this time against Boca Juniors, one of the best teams in South America.

Eski put up an impressive display where he also registered an assist on a Giorgio Chinaglia goal and that proved enough for the American side to hand the Iranian star a contract which after some evaluation time, the latter accepted wholeheartedly.

The Iranian defender proved to be a key addition to a squad which contained high-profile stars such as Germany world-class defender Franz Beckenbauer, Brazilian specialists Carlos Alberto and Pele and Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia.

Wearing the Cosmos shirt, Eski was part of three championship-winning teams; 1978, 1980 and 1982.

Yet, his best memories are not the championships he claimed or the memorable games he was involved, but the environment and friendships he made during his six-year stay with the club.

“It is not a about a championship or any great game but of the entire experience which was a beautiful dream with the camaraderie and the friendships,” Eski would often reveal.

Check out below some interviews with Andranik and his son, MLS star and former New York Cosmos coach, Alecko Eskandarian.