All photos courtesy of the Coniglio family.1/6
All photos courtesy of the Coniglio family.
Few fans, if any, in the history of sports will ever have the impact that 13-year-old Angelo Coniglio had this week for his favorite team.
Fans can have an incredible impact on sports teams, from rattling players to elevating a team at crucial moments. Sometimes their volume can cause a turnover or a penalty or simply set the tone for the game. But few fans can say they’ve orchestrated the move of a player or a signing.
That is what Coniglio, barely a teenager, can say as he played an instrumental role in the New York Cosmos bringing back forward Lucky Mkosana on Tuesday.
It is a rather fantastic story, one that in four years' time might just make a tremendous college application letter. Coniglio is one of the most passionate fans of the Cosmos. The teenager along with his two parents and brother are loyal to the core and attend nearly every match.
They get there early to watch the team warm up and stay late to interact with the players, no matter if it is a win, draw or loss. And Coniglio has been known to go to Cosmos practices and talk with Giovani Savarese, the head coach of the team. Savarese notes how one time the young fan had a notebook and showed him “seven different formations for us to consider.”
Savarese chuckles and sighs. He loves the passion of fans like this and always wants to listen to their ideas. The latest idea from this teenage superfan was more than just worth a listen, it actually happened.
Over the past couple years Coniglio and Mkosana developed a friendship on social media. That connection continued over the past few months despite an ocean separating the player in Finland and the young fan just entering his teen years. Mkosana was his favorite player and with the team needing a forward, Coniglio started thinking.
“I started talking to Lucky right after he left for Finland, and the team got back together. I missed him and wanted him back on the team. Every game I saw coach Gio, and me and my brother would tell him that he needed to build the team with more power in the front. I kept telling him that Lucky would come back if he asked. His contract was up in December,” Coniglio told Metro New York. “I knew it would happen because he kept telling me one day he would [be] back. I felt deep down it was a real possibility. Every game they lost at home, I kept saying we need Lucky. Every opportunity I had I told everyone, 'We need Lucky back. Bring back No. 77.'”
In the words of Savarese, Coniglio “in essence started the whole conversation … a kid so young was thinking about the idea and bringing him into the New York Cosmos. I thought it was a beautiful story about a family and their love for the Cosmos.”
As has often been the case, Coniglio approached Savarese recently with the idea.
“One day recently he comes up to me, I think, right outside the stadium,” Savarese told Metro on Tuesday. “And he says ‘Gio, I’m talking to Lucky constantly. He seems not to be playing too much. So tell him to come and play for us.’ [I said] that if you have contact with him, let him know that this is his house and he’s always welcome to come back. So Angelo got in touch with Lucky, explained the situation and that he should come back to the Cosmos. Then I got a call from Lucky.”
A family affair
Coniglio first connected with the Cosmos when the team was playing at Hofstra University on Long Island and that love affair has continued now with the move to MCU Park on Coney Island.
His parents, Christine and Frankie Sr., remember watching the original Cosmos playing three decades ago and were excited to get their soccer-loving family to watch the NASL side. So they made the trip from College Point, New York, one time along with their youth team and instantly fell in love with the international flair and local talent of the team.
“We started to follow the New York Cosmos because our soccer became a youth affiliate and our director of coaching, Carlo Acquista, brought them to our fields. My husband and I remember watching them play when we were kids, so we started to go to the games as a family,” mother Christina Coniglio said. “Actually we were at a game and our older son was a ball boy. Lucky was warming up to go on later in the game. He was near our son, Angelo, and they started to talk about the game as they were watching. The bond just started to build from that point, both my boys Frankie and Angelo became friendlier and friendlier with Lucky at the games.”
Frankie Coniglio Jr., three years younger than Angelo, is also a soccer player and a big Cosmos fan. The brothers, the mother said, enjoy playing the sport together and look forward to going to games to root on the defending NASL champions.
They found out about the contract after school when their mother told them to check the internet for the news.
Savarese admits to being impressed with Angelo. At an age where most teenagers are worrying about pimples or the latest fashion trends, Angelo and his brother Frankie are rabid Cosmos supporters.
The attention to detail by Angelo in setting the wheels in motion to orchestrate not just a player coming onto the Cosmos roster but doing so with a talent signed to an overseas deal is remarkable. The player was essentially gift-wrapped for sporting director Luke Sassano to sign to a contract.
He’s the freshman Billy Beane.
“I think he’s a great kid, he’s always supportive. He’s always communicating his thoughts on the club. I think he’s not surprised at something like that,” Savarese said. “He’s a proactive kid and confident. He’s always helping the club.”
Savarese joked and said that he thinks he should sign Angelo to be his “head scout.”
“But Sassano will be his boss,” Savarese said with a laugh.