Granite City soccer legend Ruben Mendoza remembered

Memorial plaza dedicated for "Father of Granite City Soccer"

Brad Choat
June 01, 2019 - 6:53 pm
Ruben Mendoza Memorial unveiling June 1, 2019 in Granite City, Illinois

KMOX/Brad Choat

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GRANITE CITY, Ill. (KMOX) - On Saturday, the people of Granite City honored the legacy of a man who built up the sport of soccer in their town.

In the 1950's Ruben Mendoza played in St. Louis leagues and for the U.S. national team before he started coaching and community-organizing.

As part of the new Mendoza Memorial, there's a statue of "Number 10" doing his signature move. Hall of Fame Granite City High School soccer coach Gene Baker made reference to the move during the ceremony, "It's something he could do often enough, well enough, that the bicycle kick became synonymous with the name Ruben."

St. Louis soccer legend Pat McBride was a fan of Mendoza's before calling him a friend, "He was an active player, had very good technique, a very good touch. He was a team player, just a lot of fun to watch. Getting to know him, he was even more special."

Ceremony speaker Keith Gehling grew up in Granite and went on to play soccer professionally, "It's really difficult to measure how many kids Ruben influenced, and lives he made a difference in. It wasn't just that he started the program and directed the program, but how he did it - with his unforgettable smile and who he was."

During her speech, Mendoza's granddaughter Isa Scaturro issued a challenge to the youth soccer players of today, "Whenever you guys feel like you are not going to succeed in this sport or are not feeling the same love for it (soccer) anymore, come here to this memorial and just look at all of this. Just see the impact he made on this community and see that it could be you one day. Maybe that'll keep you having a love for the game." 

Mendoza died in 2010 at the age of 78.

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