It's hard to live on soccer pay

Donald Huff
Date Published: 
Anniston Star

Star — The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Brazilian soccer superstar Pele recently signed a $7 million contract to play for the New York Cosmos for three years. Washington Diplomats reserve goalkeeper George Taratsides recently received a $300 raise and now makes $2,000 a season.

Like many North American Soccer League players, Taratsides finds it impossible to live on his soccer salary. Consequently, he has another job.

"I help my father run a lunch wagon in Baltimore," said Taratsides, a former soccer All-America at the University of Maryland. "But I don't worry about the money so much, I would play for nothing."

There is little jealousy of Pele among his NASL teammates. Pele's presence this year pushed the league into the American sports limelight for the first time.

Nevertheless, while Pele's bank account skyrockets, the average professional soccer player in this country must moonlight just to get by.

Diplomats' president Jim Karvellas says the Washington club payroll is one of the highest in the league. But the players realize playing soccer isn't their main job. It's sort of a bonus for them," Karvellas added.

Most Diplomat salaries range between $2,000 and $5,000 for the season.

"It helps," said Leroy DeLeon of his soccer pay. DeLeon works as an engineer eight hours a day for the Savoy Construction Co. before reporting to practice,

"But I wish it could be full time," he continued. "If I made say $15,000, or $20,000, I wouldn't need another job." He makes a little over $4,200 with the Diplomats.

Unlike DeLeon, some of the Washington players play full time in Europe and compete here when that season ends.

"It (the NASL) just fills the gap for us," said Mick Barry, who plays in England.

According to Barry, many of the foreign players earn between $300-$500 a week in Europe, depending on where the team finishes in the standings.

Karvellas said the league is in the process of working ways to keep the players here year-round.

"Most of them would like to stay here all year, but we have to provide some sort of income for them," said Karvellas, "Winter and summer camps, sporting goods stores with the Diplomats as employees are ideas we're tossing around."

Karl Minor and Brian Pillinger, both salesmen, Bert Grell, a government employee, and Roy Willner, Maryland school system employee, are other players who work to supplement their soccer salaries.

Alan Ross and Mark Lowenstein are still amateurs and are paid $50 weekly by the club.

Diplomats coach Dennis Viollet says most players make adjustments, and are looking forward to higher salaries in the future.

"I don't make as much as George Allen, but I've prepared myself to live on what I get," Viollet said.