The Big Apple Youth Soccer League is planning more clinics in Spanish Harlem. (Photo courtesy of ENYYSA)

The Big Apple Youth Soccer League hosted a free clinic in Spanish Harlem Saturday, June 17.

The clinic was held at the East Harlem Bilingual Head Start on East 116th Street was attended by 70 enthusiastic local kids from ages three to nine. For many, it was their first time ever with a soccer ball.

“We taught the kids how to pass the ball,” BAYSL president Luis Montoya said. “My first thought was, ‘You are Latino, how can you not know how to play soccer?’ but many of these kids come from households where soccer is not so popular. I’m on a mission to convince parents that kids can learn soccer at an early age. The kids did not think they would be successful in kicking the ball but they were and everybody was very, very happy.”

Giving a huge thumbs-up was Anthony Rivera of the FAMILIA Program, which is connected with the Mount Sinai Medical Center and the American Heart Association.

Rivera attended because heart disease disproportionally affects minorities in Harlem partly due to sedentary lifestyle. He hoped that getting kids to participate in a cardiovascular exercise such as soccer starting from an early age will help reverse this trend.

Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association contributed by donating tchotchkes (gifts, trinkets) for the children.

More BAYSL clinics will be planned in Spanish Harlem in the future.