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Pele, Beckenbauer’s Teammate Now Taxi Driver



Not everyone who associated with the greats eventually turned great. That appears to be the case for a certain Santiago Formoso, a Spanish American who played alongside Pele and Franz Beckenbauer as a defender for five seasons in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s. He also earned seven caps for the US national team in 1976 and 1977.

While his other mates, especially the legendary Pele and charismatic Beckenbauer are still well respected names in sports, Formoso has relegated to the realm of anonymity. Sports Village Square gleaned from MARCA, a Spanish newspaper obtained online via Yahoosports and Business Insider that Formoso revealed he is now an Uber driver.

Pele is a UN ambassador for ecology and environment while Beckenbauer was a successful manager and now honorary president at Bayern Munich. Pele and Beckenbauer played with Formoso at New York Cosmos in the twightlight of their careers in the late 1970s.

But for one of their former Cosmos team-mates, life has been markedly different. Formoso had to change careers once he hung up his boots, just to make ends meet. The 63 year old regales his passengers with anecdotes from his playing days.

“I started as a taxi driver because I am fascinated by the steering wheel,” he reportedly told MARCA. “I shared a room with (Pelé). It was incredibly easy to play with him because he made the difficult things seem easy.”


Formoso played far more regularly with Beckenbauer, his defensive partner in the heart of the Cosmos rearguard for much of the 1978 and 1979 North American Soccer League seasons.



  •                         Formoso in his playing days at New York Cosmos

“During a very hot day one summer, I was calmly drinking a coke when, all of a sudden, I noticed Beckenbauer tossing my can against the wall and stamping on it,” Formoso said.

“He was screaming that I was crazy due to the chemicals in the drink [but] then handed me a beer.”

The Formoso moved to New Jersey in the late 1960s and embarked on a long career in the North American Soccer League (NASL) long before the formation of Major League Soccer (MLS).


His skill with the ball earned him a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania to study Art and Literature before even qualifying to be part of the United States Olympic team.


Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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