The Toros sign David . . . now the bad news

Gene Williams
Date Published: 
Miami News

The Miami Toros soccer club won a battle yesterday, but it's yet to be determined if it will win the war.

The News has learned that the Toros have signed their star forward, Steve David, to a one-year contract, outbidding the Major Soccer League for his services.

Though no figures have been announced, it's reported that David, the North American Soccer League's leading scorer and most valuable player last year, will get a $20,000 salary, a rent-free apartment, and a free college education.

The package is considerably less than that offered by the MSL, a fledgling indoor league headed by Norman Sutherland and Rick Ragone, both formerly connected with the Toros.

According to Ragone, the MSL offered David a $25,000 salary, a $10,000 bonus for signing, a free apartment and free schooling.

"We don't know what the hell is happening," said Ragone. "We had already come to terms with David. We had a verbal agreement that he would sign with us. All we had to do was work out the details with his lawyer. Then he signs with the Toros.

"We're very disappointed. We don't feel Steve dealt with us in good faith."

David accepted the Toros' offer despite the advice of his agent, Peter Huthwaite, president of Superstars International in Detroit.

"I think pressure was exerted on Steve and he was taken in," said Huthwaite. "The kid's only 23, he's from Trinidad. He doesn't know anything about business. They told him he had to sign or else. And he did. For God's sake, he was the MVP last year. He's worth more than he got."

Worth it or not, David's signing was an absolute must for the Toros.

There had been rumors that the club, which has lost money ever since it came to Miami four years ago, was about to fold or be sold.

Indeed, Toros officials admitted they'd entertain any serious offers to buy the team.

When there were no offers. Dolphins owner Joe Robbie decided to take over active ownership. His wife, Liz, who is expected to replace Jim Billings as managing general partner, had been involved with the team for three years and had already lost a considerable sum of money.

Rather than throw it all away, Robbie said he'd see what he could do. But before he'd do anything, he insisted David be signed.

That job was left up to Joe Namphy, a Haitian soccer promoter who says he is the club's director of sales promotion and play personnel.

Namphy wooed David back to the fold, but in doing so he may have opened a can of worms.

David made only $6,000 in 1975, meaning his salary will triple for the '76 season. Steve's teammates may be a bit unhappy when their paychecks don't also triple.

"Our players will just have to understand that they won't be getting as much as Steve David," said Namphy. "Pele makes a million bucks a year with the New York Cosmos, but not every Cosmps player can make a million. They know Pele is their bread and butter.

"Well, Steve is our MVP, he's the man who puts people in the stadium for us. We have to pay him commensurate to what he brings. If some of our players come in acting like super hot shots and demanding as much as Steve, I'll have to say too bad.

"I can replace them very easily. The world is full of soccer players and most of them are from countries with poor standards of living. The pressure is on our players not me. I can always get players as good or better, cheaper."

He may have to. A number of Toros players are already upset over David's deal. They can't understand why Steve is worth three times as much as they are.

"I think it would be hard to prove Steve David twice as god as the rest of us," said one player. "He's only as good as the people around him, the people who feed him the ball. I definitely think it could work in reverse."

In other words, David might not see the ball as often this year. And the Toros may find themselves at the bottom of the standings.

"We know the situation here has been a sad one," said Namphy. "But we feel now we have the ingredients to put together a successful franchise here. There are a lot of things happening we can't tell you about right now."