Emil Cohill was a fixture at the Met Oval. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Emil Cohill was called a “silent hero to the game,” given his devotion to the sport, on and off the pitch.

A long-time fixture as a referee at the Met Oval and the cornerstone of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League, Cohill passed away Tuesday morning.

The Woodside, Queens, N.Y. resident was 82.

“He was like a silent hero to the game, because that’s the way he wanted the game, and the players were more important than anything else,” former CJSL president Jim Vogt said. “We had many conversations over the years, and it was never, never about him. It’s always about the game, always about the players. So, he was a hero. Most people look for accolades. He probably should have gotten many, many more accolades, but he never wanted it never pushed for it because the game, and the players were bigger than anything else.”

Like it or not, Cohill did receive accolades as he was inducted into the Eastern New York Soccer Hall of Fame in 1999, was named a Life Member of the CJSL in 2003 and was honored at the 2017 New York City Soccer Gala.

Cohill was a man of few words. His acceptance at he Gala lasted about two minutes.

Instead, Cohill let his work do his talking for him. Much of it was behind the scenes, doing the gritty paper work as a league secretary. The rest came on the soccer field as a referee.

“He was the backbone in a league,” long-time B.W. Gottschee soccer guru Ben Boehm said. “It was the way he did his work. Very, very thorough. Everything he did, he did with extra precision.”

“He was a man who certainly kept the league together, and it kept it going,” former CJSL president Carlo Bucich said.

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Emil Cohill was the fulcrum of the CJSL for four decades. (Photo courtesy of the CJSL)

Cohill officiated games in which thousands of players participated. He probably worked the middle of matches that included future U.S. international and professional players.

He officiated games until he retired two years ago. “He was a soccer guy through and through,” Boehm said.

Cohill was unconventional, riding his bicycle to the games to the iconic Oval every weekend.

“In this day and age of Internet and cell phones, Emil is a throwback who has kept things in perspective and at a even keel, always reminding us how things were done in the past without today’s technology and it somehow all worked,“ CJSL director Dimitrie Draguca said in 2017.

After the news of Cohill’s passing broke Tuesday morning, New York soccer community was in mourning.

“It is with deep sadness that CJSL is reporting  the passing of our life member, secretary, and friend Emil Cohill,” the CJSL said on it’s Facebook page. “His work and dedication to our league, the member clubs, and the children who he reffed for over 55 years will never be forgotten.  The man exemplified the true meaning of a “lifer” that who gave up of his time and efforts to give back to the sport he loved and asked for nothing in return. May he Rest In Peace and his memory be eternal.”

Among some of the comments left on the CJSL Facebook page:

* St. John’s University men’s coach Dave Masur: “We honored Emil at the NY City soccer gala a couple of years ago. there wasn’t a more deserving reception. He posses all those great qualities mentioned in the post but I remember him for working every weekend at ccny referring and administrating a fantastic indoor league sponsored by the cosmopolitan league. May God Bless Him and his family!!”

* Brendan Mullarkey: “What a major loss of the soccer community ! Rest in Peace Emil”

* His daughter Emily Cohill: “My dad was proud to give back to the soccer community and I grew up watching his love for the sport and his devotion to the league. He truly was 1 in a million and we miss him. Thank you for your kind words.”

Cohill emigrated to the United States from Croatia in 1952. He attended St. Mary’s Grammar School in Tacoma, Wash, where he was a CYO All-Star before moving to New York in 1955 and studying at Power Memorial Academy.

He attended Fordham University where he was the team’s MVP in 1962, before playing for Dalmatinac Soccer Club  in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League (then called the German-American Soccer League) from 1963 to 1980.

In 1976 Cohill was elected CJSL secretary of the CJSL, a position he amazingly still held through 2019. Cohill became a referee in 1981.

Cohill also was the director of the Herbert Heilpern Indoor Tournament for some four decades.

That tournament attracted some of the top teams in the area.

“You had all the top players,” Boehm said. “Claudio Reyna from Union County, [U.S. men’s national coach] Gregg Berhalter. All these guys played in this tournament. I mean I couldn’t mention maybe another 10, 20, 30 I’m talking top players. Everybody was itching to get in and it was every year.”

The tourney had six age divisions – Under-8, U-10, U-12, U-14, U-16 and U-19. The event ran every Saturday and Sunday from January through March.

“He’d be up there by 6:30 to 7 o’clock [in the morning] putting things together,” Boehm said. “It would end anywhere between 6 and 7 o’clock. And then someone would drive him home, and someone would usually pick them up in the morning and if someone didn’t, his wife drove up because he did not drive.”

Cohill did the scheduling the old-fashioned way – by hand.

“I remember him doing all that scheduling,” Boehm said. “No computers involved with that stuff. Everything done on a typewriter. But the guy did tremendous work.”

He also was a connoisseur of the game, even as a game official.

Sometimes one of the 25-minute halves of U-10 matches went longer than planned because the teams were playing extremely well.

“All of a sudden the first half was 35-40 minutes,” said Boehm, who pointed that out to his friend. “He says, ‘Yeah, but it’s such a good game we’re going to let it go.’ And that was the right actually that is the right approach.”