Luis Montoya dedicated his life to the children of New York City. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Luis Montoya, the founder and former president of the Big Apple Youth Soccer League who was laid to rest Friday, dedicated his life to the children of New York City. He was 76.

His focus was to give Hispanic kids an opportunity to perform in an organized youth soccer league, so they could enjoy fresh air, the beautiful game, grow as a person and perhaps move up the soccer ladder.

I got the opportunity to meet Montoya in August 1997, not so long after the BAYSL was created.

Your truly could not forget the meeting. It was at Flushing Meadow Corona Park in Queens, N.Y. He showed me the conditions of some of the soccer fields his players competed on. Field 4, which was the home of the BAYSL, had old beer and soda cans, small pieces of glass, plastic forks, leftover food and other garbage on it. Portable bathrooms were not cleaned on the inside for days, if not weeks, the stench was so disgusting.

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Luis Montoya (left) and former Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association president Howard Rubenstein back in the day. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

“I think it’s a disgrace, especially since we offered to help [the City Parks and Recreation Dept.] financially,” Montoya said at the time. “They refused and then claimed poverty. … They’re doing something about. It’s just not enough.”

What made it more confounding was the field, and others, were in wretched condition, in the shadow of the recently opened, $254 million Arthur Ashe Stadium.

I wrote about the BAYSL’s plight for the New York Daily News and Soccer New York.

The city eventually cleaned up the fields.

Montoya had other plans, such as expanding the league. By 1999, the BAYSL had grown to more than 1,000 children. Yet, the league had only that Field 4 to call home for Saturday games and practice once on weekdays.

“I want the field to be distributed equally between the youths who use the park, according to the number of kids they have,” Montoya said in 1999. “It’s not right that we have 1,000 kids and we have only one big field. In the meantime, other groups who don’t have 100 kids get two-three field. That’s not right.

“We have too many kids and they say they don’t have fields. That’s a bunch of baloney. I am in this part for the last 26 years, so I know what’s going on.”

Montoya got some more fields as the BAYSL continued to grow and give youths an opportunity to play the sport.

No doubt Montoya was a fighter for and a driving force in the Hispanic community, especially for the kids.

RIP, Luis.