Monday, March 22, 2010

Catching Up With Peter Anderson

Peter Anderson, a native of London, England, came to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1978 via a trade with the San Diego Shockers of the North American Soccer League. The midfielder played three seasons with the Rowdies and was a major contributor to the team's back-to-back appearances in the league's Soccer Bowl championship games in 1978 and 1979. In March 1980, Anderson scored the game-winning goal in the NASL indoor season championship against Memphis. Today, Anderson serves as president and CEO of Bayshore Technologies in Tampa. He recently sat down to talk about his soccer career and memories of the Rowdies.

Q. What was your first impression of Tampa?

A. My first impression was: this is a really cool place to play. I came here to play a game with San Diego, who I was playing for then, in 1978. In San Diego, our crowds were around 10,000. We played here in a mid-week game and it was like 35,000. The fans were great, friendly. The whole place was just electric. I knew I wanted to come here.
About three weeks later, San Diego's general manager called me into the office and told me that there was an issue with the coach. He said it was like a marriage. Some of them work out, and some of them don't. This one, he said, doesn't, and we're going to trade you. He said that I could be traded to any of six different teams. He told me the teams, and one of them was Tampa. I told him I wanted to go Tampa. He said, "I thought you would say that, and here's your ticket." He had an airline ticket for Tampa ready to go!

Q. Your first visit to Tampa must have made a lasting impression on you.

A. The whole thing. Everything was very professional and crisp. It was just a model franchise. I never experienced anything like it before or after. It's hard to explain it, but it's very special. The front office were friends with the players, everyone was very connected.
It's kind of interesting because even now when someone recognizes you, it brings a smile to your face. I was at a youth baseball game the other day and an older guy came up and said, "You're coaching baseball now? I remember you when you were on the Rowdies." The first thing I think is: "How can people possibly remember 30 years ago?"

Q. The Rowdies had a unique bond with the fans you don't see nowadays.

A. It was just a lot of fun. The people were neat people. It wasn't fan worship or anything like that, just nice people. I met the Maniscalco family during my first couple weeks in Tampa. They are still my friends today. I go to their weddings, the weddings of their grandchildren now. The mother, Mary, called me her English son. It's more than just playing for a team. I've made friendships to last the rest of my life.

Q. It must have helped that you played on some pretty good teams, too.

A. We had good teams, we had a good mix. Everybody enjoyed being here. It was a happy team, at least during my three years with the Rowdies. When you've got that mix, everyone's happy, they want to play for the team, you're going to be successful. I think we were successful during those three years I was here -- nothing particular to do with me -- it just so happened to be here at the right time.

Q. What do you remember about the Soccer Bowl in 1978 against the New York Cosmos?

A. I remember an hour before the game, our coach, Gordon Jago, came up to me and said that Rodney Marsh isn't going to play. This was the first time I knew that there was an injury problem with Rodney. I was a midfielder, and he said that I was going to have to play up front and captain the team. That was kind of shocking, so late in the proceedings. It threw us off a little bit.

I remember Roberta Flack singing the national anthem. I thought that was pretty cool. I remember walking onto the field at Giants Stadium and thinking this must be how the Romans must have felt. The place was packed and the seats go straight up. There were rings of people. I remember, obviously, losing the game. I always felt it was a little bit unfair that we had to play in Giants Stadium on their home field. They played on AstroTurf, and our field here was on grass. When we played them down here, we had a distinct advantage. We lost 3-1. I think we were all gutted. We felt like we'd let down the fans. I don't think that I had a good game, so I don't have many good memories of it at all. I have a copy of the game at home, but I've never brought myself to watch it. So I really must not have had a good game. (laughs)

Q. Winning the NASL Indoor championship in 1980 must have felt like redemption after two consecutive seasons of falling short in the title game, right?

A. Yeah, we beat Memphis. I scored the winning goal in the final. I remember scoring the goal and the whole place erupted. The guys that played in the two losing finals felt like they let down the fans a bit, so it was nice. We all knew were capable of it as well. The team had very high expectations, and we went into games expecting to win. We had a good team. We didn't have too many superstars, and everybody was about the same kind of player. I enjoyed it. It's always better to win. I remember those games a lot more. The losses I kind of erase from my memory.

Q. Why do you think that the relationship between the fans and the Rowdies has endured after all this time?

A. I think it's because the Rowdies had an unbelievable road map of success. There would be people who didn't know the rules of soccer, never kicked the ball, who would come to the games. We would do clinics almost daily with high schools and middle schools, or being out in the community doing charity events. We were playing in summer months as well. There wasn't professional baseball yet, and the Bucs had just started and they weren't very successful. There's not the huge competition that there is now for the entertainment dollar.

I think it was a family sport. It was an experience to go to a soccer game. They may not have understood it so much, but it was a show. The Rowdies did a great job of putting on a show. The players bought into it and people had fun. The people who tell me about going to the games when they were younger use the word "fun." They remember going to the games with their parents and having fun. That's what sports should be. It gets almost too complicated now. We analyze it so much that we lose the fun part of it. I'm trying to teach my children to have fun with sports. There's so much pressure on people to win and they are only 10 years old. It's okay to lose. That sounds very un-American, but at that age they should just love the sport. There'll be plenty of time to have the pressure of performing. I've got some opinions about that, but I'll save that for another day. (laughs)

Q. A former teammate of yours, Farrukh Quraishi, is part of the effort to bring the World Cup to Tampa in 2018 or 2022. Do you think Tampa has a chance to become a host city?

A. I'm also on the World Cup committee with Farrukh, and have known him for over 30 years. He's an unbelievably talented and passionate man about soccer. I'm very proud of what he's done, and he's been like that ever since I met him. He had a lot more vision about what he was going to do after soccer than anyone I ever met in the sport. He wanted to do the camps because he'd get to meet people. He's a connector, and he's a very connected person. He ran the Orlando site in 1994 for the World Cup. So he's had a huge amount of responsibility on his shoulders and I think he's doing a fantastic job. He's got his heart in it and he's Tampa through and through.

I think Tampa is very lucky to have him, and I think that Tampa will get the games. Whether it is in 2018 or 2022, I think Tampa will be one of the premiere sites. Raymond James Stadium is made for soccer. That's why we didn't get it in 1994. It had nothing to do with the fan base or anything else. The Culverhouses wouldn't spend the money to make Tampa Stadium a soccer-friendly stadium. This stadium is clearly made for soccer. I think we'll get four or five games and I think this town's economic impact will be unbelievable. I hope it's in 2018. If it gets to 2022, I'll be in the wheelchair section watching it. (laughs)

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