It’s a long way from the fields of what is now downtown Mexico City. But from those humble roots came Dr. Daniel Kuntz, a Mesa surgeon who founded the Mesa Soccer Club, practically introducing the game to the East Valley.
Before there was Sereno, Arsenal and AZ Futbol Club, there was the little club sprung from the YMCA on Mesa Drive, just east of downtown. “There wasn’t a pool then, it was all open, so we played there,” remembered the 77-year-old Kuntz of the simple beginnings 35 years ago.
Kuntz will be honored tonight at a fundraising dinner for the Mesa Soccer Club. One lucky student will receive the first Dr. Daniel Kuntz Scholarship Award, honoring the man who built the organization that spawned hundreds of players, coaches, referees and the state’s first professional soccer player.
“He stood up as a father figure for many of the players,” said AZ Futbol Club president Joe Butler, who played for Kuntz in the 1970s. “Many of the clubs today were influenced by Doc. He was light years ahead of the clubs in his day.”
The former Mexican professional player started the program in the early 1970s and eventually built it into a club that traveled to other states,
Mexico and even Germany for matches — a common practice now but a novel concept then.
Today, Mesa Soccer Club has 18 competitive teams and a youth development program that includes more than 300 boys and girls.
“The model he brought, the international view, was new,” Butler said. “Going to those places had a deep influence on the players.”
Many children were from meager means in downtown Mesa and couldn’t afford all the amenities, let alone a plane ticket to some place like Germany.
“Doc sacrificed so much for those kids, he somehow paid for this kid’s ticket,” Butler said.
Kuntz’s two sons have continued the tradition. Son Dan Jr. is the coach of the men’s soccer team at Cal Lutheran, where he is also the athletic director. The semi-retired senior Kuntz is an assistant. Son George coaches at UC Irvine.
“I’ve had a fascinating life,” Kuntz said. “I’m feeling overwhelmed that this is happening. It wasn’t me. It was them.”
If you go
What: Mesa Soccer Club fundraiser dinner and golf tournament
When: Dinner — 8 p.m. today; golf tournament — 8 a.m. Saturday
Where: Arizona Golf Resort, 425 S. Power Road, Mesa
Cost: $35 for dinner, $99 for dinner and golf
Info: (480) 396-8607