Cosmos Celebrate Club’s Turkish Roots

Published Jun 8, 2017

America’s International Team was the brainchild of two brothers born in Istanbul. Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün built Atlantic Records into a dominant force in jazz, R&B, soul and rock-and-roll before the company was acquired by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967. When Kinney National absorbed those companies into what would become Warner Communicatons, CEO Steve Ross wanted to keep the Ertegün brothers involved with the music side of the entertainment conglomerate. Their condition to remain? Own and operate a soccer club.

The Ertegüns were famous in the music business for their lavish parties, and they hosted one in Mexico during the 1970 World Cup, which resulted in their meeting the Commissioner of the North American Soccer League, Phil Woosnam. So in 1971, the Cosmos was born with Neshui as President and Ahmet Vice President of the club.

The swirling blades of the Cosmos badge are an homage to the blades in the Atlantic Records logo. With their links to the worlds of diplomacy and popular culture, they often brought along celebrity friends such as Henry Kissinger and Mick Jagger to Cosmos matches, the Rolling Stones’ singer joining the executive staff of the club as International Consultant from 1978-1984.

In 1977, Neshui became Chairman and Ahmet succeeded his brother as President of the Cosmos. Becoming more and more involved with their soccer club as they continued to dominate the music business, the Ertegun brothers oversaw the golden era of the Cosmos, including a stretch of 70 consecutive home league games with crowds of 30,000+ from 1977-1981.

With the sons of Münir Ertegün (former Turkish ambassador to Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom and the United States) leading the club, it is no surprise the Cosmos adopted an ambassadorial role, enhancing the club’s image and reputation well beyond Cosmos Country. The sole match the club has played in Turkey was a 2-0 win on October 11, 1978 against Galatasaray in Istanbul.

Although some would cite the Ertegün brothers’ leadership by referring to the Cosmos as a “Turkish club,” there was only one Turkish player to feature in the first team: goalkeeper Erol Yasin (Yasin Özdenak), a Turkish international with 27 caps who remains a legend at Galatasaray.

Playing from 1977-79, Yasin won two titles with the Cosmos, setting club records for most shutouts in a season (6 in 1978) and for a career (11) with a goals against average of 1.29 – remarkable in those high-scoring days of the original NASL. After finishing his playing career, Yasin became an assistant coach for the Cosmos, and was named Head Coach for the 1981-82 indoor team before leaving the club after the 1983 regular season.

Also at the end of the 1983 season, the Ertegün brothers became Honorary Chairmen of the Cosmos. Nesuhi passed away in 1989 and Ahmet passed away in 2006, but their legacy remains at the heart of the Cosmos. The brothers are the only members of both the National Soccer Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Turkish Heritage Night provides the Cosmos with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate their seminal contributions to the club.