Mike Clarke at the Peter Collins Soccer Park. (Photo courtesy of the Long Island Junior Soccer League)

Long Island Junior Soccer League legend Michael Clarke, who seemingly held just about every position imaginable in his career and affected thousands of youth playeres, passed away on Friday.

“I was saddened to hear about the passing of Mike, a legendary figure and one of the true gentlemen of soccer who volunteered on Long Island for decades,” ENYYSA president Richard Christiano said in a statement

Clarke began his soccer career as a youth soccer coach in the Brentwood Soccer Club in the 1970’s, coaching both boys and girls. He then served as club president and under his leadership, the club tripled in size. Clarke also was tournament director of Brentwood’s Columbus Day Tournament, played at what is now Brentwood State Park.

In the early 1980’s, Clarke became a member of the LIJSL board of directors. He was also the girls varsity coach at MacArthur High School in Levittown, N.Y. and his reputation as an ambassador of sportsmanship and success led the Nassau County Soccer Coaches Association to annually give the top girls player in the county the Michael Clarke MVP Award.

Clarke also received the Marg McGory Award for his unwavering dedication to the LIJSL’s TOPSoccer Program for children with special needs. He was inducted into the LIJSL Hall of Fame in 1994 and in the Eastern New York Hall of Fame in 2012.

There are not many volunteer positions in Long Island soccer that Mike did not hold as he has served as LIJSL Select chairperson, Long Island Cup chairperson, LIJSL Hall of Fame chairperson, LIJSL games supervisor and State Cup commissioner. He also served on the committees for the LIJSL convention, LIJSL scholarship program and LIJSL rules committee.

Clarke also served as the director of the Peter Collins Soccer Park since 2001. The Soccer Park is a 22-acre facility sporting five large fields and three small-sided fields. It has been the home of the LIJSL, the Long Island Rough Riders as well as the Plainview/Old Bethpage Highlanders Soccer Club. Plainview/Old Bethpage needed a new home after their fields on Round Swamp Road that the organization had been using since the 1980’s were paved over for development.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Mike Clarke,” LIJSL president Andrew Seabury said in a statement. “The LIJSL community has lost one of the truly great servants of the game. His service to the league was second to none, and his generosity of spirit will forever be missed. Our deeply condolences go to Mike’s family and his many friends.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Guardian.com. Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of BigAppleSoccer.com. He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at Amazon.com.