David looks expensive, but magic works cheap

Gene Williams
Date Published: 
Miami News

Steve DavidSteve David won't let anyone play with his ball

Pele, the world's greatest soccer player, is earning $48925 a game for the New York Cosmos. Steve David, the Miami Toros' greatest soccer player, makes considerably less. Like $48,562 less.

Come next April, Steve David may have to ask for a raise.

"If we could afford it, I'd give Steve $2 million right now," said Toros general manager Angel Lorie. "He's worth every penny of it, and more. Not even Pele could do what Steve did tonight."

What Steve did was score a North American Soccer League record of five goals and a league record of 10 points in Miami's 8-0 thrashing of the Washington Diplomats before 4,480 rain-soaked fans at the Orange Bowl.

"Magic, the guy's magic," said defenseman Ralph Wright after the game. "At the moment, I'd say Steve's better than Pele. He may not be a better team player, but he's certainly a better scorer. You just give him the ball and let him alone."

Ronnie Sharp agrees. "Steve's fantastic," said the Miami midfielder. "He means more to this team than Pele would expect at the gate. Pele draws the people, but Steve . . . I mean, five goals in one game. What more can you say? Speed, shooting, dribbling, ball control. Steve's got it all."

David, who now has 16 goals in 11 games and leads the NASL in scoring with a whopping 36 points, merely smiles when compared to Pele. Steve's not sure he belongs on such a lofty plateau. Not yet, anyway.

"I am nowhere near Pele," he said. "Pele is a great man. He has played for three World Cup teams and he is known all over the world. He's a superstar. I am not a superstar. Nobody knows me, not even in Miami. I deserve to be known all over the world, but I'm not."

Certainly, the 23-year-old forward is well known in his native Trinidad. He cannot walk the streets without someone recognizing him and begging for an autograph.

"Everybody knows me in Trinidad," he said. "Everybody. Whenever I go into a store they say, 'Here Steve, take it half price.' They all know me. But the world will know me soon. Wait until Trinidad gets to the World Cup. Then the world will know me."

The Diplomats surely know him. Too well. With four starters on the sidelines with injuries, including leading scorer Randy Horton, Washington was as helpless as Custer at the Little Big Horn.

The Toros (9-2) lead the NASL East after Tampa's 1-0 loss to Dallas. They moved the ball at will, slicing through the Diplomat defense like a hot knife through butter. Of Miami's 19 shots, eight went in and three more just stayed out.

For the record, the scoring went something like this: David Proctor, David, David, David, Esteban Aranguiz, David, Proctor, David.

"I knew I could get that many," said David, who's now one goal ahead of his self-imposed 30-goal pace. Every time I go out on the field, I expect to score six goals. I am not a superstar yet, but I am working on it."

Although he well deserves it, David isn't sure he'll ask for a raise next season. He is, after all, happy with the way things are now.

"Soccer is not work for me, it is sport," he said. "All I want is enough money to live and I am happy. I have never asked the Miami Toros for so and so money. THey have always said to me, 'We are paying you so and so,' and I say, 'O.K.'

"But I will think about a raise. If New York can pay Pele four million, maybe Miami can pay me one."

He was only kidding, of course, but he would like enough money some day to buy a new car. While Pele is chauffeured to practice and games in a black limousine, David drives a '72 Capri.

"Someday," he said, "I'd like a big car. A very big car."

If everything goes according to plan, he may not have long to wait.