A strange face aided a local youth soccer league this fall, but an athlete of his stature can't remain anonymous for long.

ST. ROBERT – A strange face aided a local youth soccer league this fall, but an athlete of his stature can't remain anonymous for long.

Maximo Reyes, a former Peruvian National Team soccer player, worked with the Waynesville-St. Robert youth soccer league this fall, and plans to continue coaching well into the future.

The soccer pro moved to St. Robert five years ago and has nothing but aspiration to coach area youth. But Reyes didn't earn a coaching opportunity until former Waynesville-St. Robert recreation coordinator Kerry Rayford gave him one.

"Before, nobody gave me a chance to work with the soccer kids," Reyes explained. "I knocked on too many doors, but everybody closed the doors on me."

When asked why, Reyes hadn't the slightest clue, but his love for soccer eventually landed him a gig on the soccer field.

Born in Lima, Peru, Reyes learned to love his country's national game—soccer—at 8 years old. Despite his father's love for track and field, Reyes mastered soccer by making long trips to a field after school.

"When I was 8 years old, I had to go to the field far away by myself," he explained. "I didn't have anyone to bring me to the field because my daddy worked, and mom was supposed to [care for] the kids."

His dedication paid off when Reyes was named to the country's national minor league team, Alianza Lima, just two years later at age 10.

At 17 years old, Reyes secured a roster spot on the professional Peruvian National Team, which plied for a Pre-National Team World Cup chance in Spain in 1982.

"The coach for that team called 44 players, and I was lucky to be on that list," Reyes said. "So I played with the best players, not just in my country, [but] in the world."

After learning from internationally famous players, Reyes played professionally for 17 years for teams from both Peru and Venezuela, including Estudiantes de Merida, Deportivo Italia, Deportivo Tachira and Copa Libertadores

Reyes eventually made his way to the U.S. and, despite soccer being less-than-popular among Americans, Reyes continued to display his affection for the sport and eventually became a youth tutor.

"In my five years [in Pulaski County], I see too much talent, but they don't have the people to teach them the right way [to play soccer]."

Reyes studied physical education and combined that knowledge with his love for soccer to become a certified coach.

"I have a lot of experience to coach both boys and girls," Reyes said. "This is my goal: teaching soccer."

Though his passion for the game began at an early age, Reyes decided to coach to make up for the absence of his daughter, who is now an adult.

"I feel the kids are a part of my family," Reyes said. "You go to any practice, when you see me, I play like I'm a little kid, too."

During the fall season the former professional taught area youth hand-eye coordination, how to read the field and trap the ball on defense, as well as how to accurately pass to teammates. Most importantly, though, Reyes emphasized the importance of players using their on-field instincts.

"I can't say, 'No, you dribble this way.'" he explained. "No. I teach you how you're supposed to move, but, inside the field, any kid is supposed to use [their] inspiration."

In Central Missouri, most soccer leagues last only though summer. Reyes is currently working with Rayford to change that in the Waynesville-St. Robert area. The duo hopes to create a year-long soccer program so children interested in pursuing a successful soccer career can practice continually from season to season.

But Reyes has already worked around the clock to help improve several area players, including current high school and collegiate athletes – one has even made it as far as Germany to play soccer.

Several of Reyes' former students have kept in touch with their past coach with pictures and personal notes, some of which hang in a soccer shrine in Reyes' home. That room, however, is more a symbol of Reyes' life and dedication to soccer.

Pictures of himself with Claudio Pizzaro, a Peruvian striker who plays for Bayern Munich, in Germany, line his wall, which is also covered in past newspaper clippings of Reyes' professional days, as well as medals, trophies, and plaques.

Reyes loves soccer and he hopes to pass on his love of the game to children with a similar passion.