May 5, 2023 - Sports

How Slaviša "Steve" Žungul got to the National Soccer Hall of Fame

Indoor soccer was pretty big in the 1980s. Photo: Courtesy of the National Soccer Hall of Fame

The National Soccer Hall of Fame class of 2023 features some of the most famous players in modern history, including Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, and Hope Solo.

Yes, but: This weekend's induction ceremony in Frisco will also include a player with an incredible story that even many dedicated soccer fans don't know.

The big picture: Slaviša "Steve" Žungul was a star in his native Yugoslavia in the late 1970s before defecting to the United States. He hoped to play in the North American Soccer League, where Pelé was growing a U.S. fan base.

  • But the Yugoslavian government lobbied FIFA to ban Žungul from playing in any FIFA-sanctioned league. So he joined the upstart Major Indoor Soccer League instead.

Context: Indoor soccer is a very different sport, replete with rapid substitutions, flashing lights, pop music, and hockey-style dasher boards.

What happened: In his first game with the New York Arrows, Žungul scored four goals. He quickly became the greatest indoor soccer player in the world, leading the Arrows to four consecutive championships.

  • In a 1981 profile that also highlighted his hard-partying, model-dating off-the-field lifestyle, Sports Illustrated dubbed Žungul the "Lord of All Indoors."

Meanwhile: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that Žungul could finally play outdoor soccer in America. In his first season, with the Golden Bay Earthquakes, he was the league MVP.

  • The NASL folded a year later.
  • So Žungul returned to indoor.

By the numbers: In his 12 seasons of indoor soccer, Žungul scored 751 goals, almost 200 more than the second-leading goal scorer at the time.

  • He was on eight championship teams and won the league MVP six times.

The latest: Žungul is the first player elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame based on indoor soccer accomplishments.

The intrigue: Dallas' own beloved indoor soccer star, Tatu, hasn't been included — yet.

These days: Žungul reportedly lives a quiet life in Southern California. He hasn't spoken to the media or made a public appearance in more than a decade.

What we're watching: Will Žungul's former rivals on the Dallas Sidekicks turn out to see him inducted?


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