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Alecko Eskandarian

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Plays Soccer (Futbol) for D.C. United team.

Number (11)

Traded to the Toronto expansion team in 2006.


Daily News November 9, 2008 Sunday New York

THE SCORE. Eski's Cosm-ic experience still hard to fathom

All Andranik Eskandarian wanted to do was get off the field that April night in 1980. It was hot and muggy in Fort Lauderdale, his Cosmos were losing 4-1 and there were 40 seconds left in the match.

Eski, as he was known to Cosmos fans, had no connection to the drama that was dragging on in his native country of Iran, where militant extremists were holding 52 Americans hostage. In fact, as an Armenian Christian in Islamic Iran, Eskandarian had been a minority. That didn't make any difference to 26-year-old Richard Croker.

In a flash, the spectator jumped a wire fence and was on the field, where he tackled the player and began to attack him. Luckily, he didn't have a weapon and teammates were able to intercede.

The incident seems even dumber 28 years later as Eski sits among the racks of soccer jerseys, shoes and balls at Birkenmeier Sports Shop, the store in Hackensack, N.J. he owns and runs with former teammate Hubert Birkenmeier. Eskandarian has made his home in New Jersey, where he and wife Ann would raise Alecko, a star striker with Chivas USA of Major League Soccer.

"It was late in the game, it was hot and I was totally tired," Eski recalls. "Luckily our bench was close by and came to help me because that guy was nuts. I mean, I never had anything to do with politics and this guy comes after me.

"Suddenly when I came to U.S., everyone called me Iranian," he said. "In Iran I was Armenian and here I was Iranian."

Now, he says, "I am an American . . . 100%."

Eskandarian, 57, has never returned to Iran although he keeps in contact with two sisters there. After he signed with the Cosmos in 1979, his parents, two brothers and another sister followed him here. He went on to an all-star NASL career as a fearless, hard-nosed defender before he played his last professional game in 1990.

But it was his play for Iran's 1978 World Cup team that got him noticed. Later that summer, he received an invitation to play for the World All Stars in an exhibition game against the Cosmos at Giants Stadium. The Cosmos were interested in signing defender Alberto Tarantini of World Cup champion Argentina at the time but after each played a half, it was Eskandarian, the fireplug fullback, who impressed the Cosmos more.

Eski's best memories of his Cosmos career aren't championships or any great game but of the entire experience - "a beautiful dream" - the camaraderie and the friendships. "You live those every day," he says. "It stays in your heart forever."