By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
99. Paolo Rossi – Signed by the Stallions in 1980
Buffalo was the home of one of the greatest players in soccer history – for one game.
Paolo Rossi was one of the top players in Italian soccer by 1980. He had shown in the 1978 World Cup that he was one of the most dangerous scorers on the planet, helping Italy to a fourth-place finish. His playing rights were sold that summer to Vicenzia for 2.6 billion lire, making him the most valuable player in the world at that point. But two years later, he became involved in a betting scandal that eventually led to a two-year suspension, despite Rossi’s claims of innocence. The rest of the world honored the ban, with one exception.
The Major Indoor Soccer League wasn’t part of that agreement, and Buffalo Stallions general manager Sal DeRosa signed Rossi. The forward only played one exhibition game against Philadelphia on Oct. 30, and then the league decided to join the rest of the world in honoring the suspension. Rossi was back in action by 1982, and joined Italy’s World Cup team that year. He led Italy to the championship, as he was honored as the tournament’s top player and top scorer. Rossi later said that he enjoyed his brief experience of playing the indoor game.
Meanwhile, there’s a man in Lockport with a Stallions game-used jersey in his house. It says Rossi on the back. That’s about the only item that marks Rossi’s stay in Buffalo.
Here’s a look at Rossi in action:
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