Luis Uribe’s Los Lobos get a much-deserved home makeover with Rebuild’s renovation of Capitolo Playground
Uribe began his community league in South Philly to get his daughter into fútbol. Now, more than 200 kids flock to the playground every week to play.
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Luis Uribe grew up in the Municipality of Puebla, Mexico, a mountainous region. At night he used to hear coyotes and wolves running about, often mesmerized by their loud howls.
Little did he know, those howls would later become the rally cry for his Club Deportivo Los Lobos, a youth fútbol league he founded in South Philadelphia roughly a decade ago.
Luis, an avid fútbol fan growing up, had big dreams to play professionally. If it were up to him, he would have played for Barça, where his idol Diego Maradona played, but he’s more than fine with how everything panned out for him in Philly.
He said the transition for him wasn’t too bad when he first arrived in 2000, but he had no idea where the fútbol community was in Philadelphia.
“Back then, there wasn’t a real passion for fútbol in Philadelphia. If you did see folks playing, it was only a couple of Mexicans or Brazilians, but there was no unity,” he noted.
Once he made peace with the reality that he wasn’t going to play pro fútbol, he switched his focus to his young daughter that he desperately wanted to expose to the game. Ultimately, he knew he would have to take matters into his own hands.
“My daughter is honestly the biggest reason why I started Los Lobos. Sure, I wanted to find out about adult leagues for myself to play in, but my real concern was making sure I could teach her,” Luis said. “Back then, there weren’t many teams I could find for her. So I decided one day that I would be her coach, and asked a few families in the neighborhood to see if they would like their kids to join part of my small team.”
Since its inception, Los Lobos has grown from a couple dozen children to over 200 kids from ages 3 to 16. Between Luis and the support of the parents, cleats, jerseys, balls and practice equipment are provided to all of Los Lobos.
More recently, Los Lobos’ home ground at Capitolo Playground in South Philly was a beneficiary of a Rebuild Philadelphia project, and it’s had major impact on the league and the surrounding communities:
“When I started Los Lobos, this behind me was all dirt. Nothing but dirt,” Luis said, gesturing to the new field behind him. “But you know where I came from, that’s all we had! So it wasn’t a problem for me to start my league. But the new field and mini-pitch we got last year has been amazing, it really helped the kids out.”
It’s been a boon to the league and Luis also said he sees more people with their kids arriving at the park these days, as the project also brought a new sense of safety.
Many South Philadelphians also know about Luis’ work now, given that he hosts two hour-long soccer practices at Capitolo nearly every weekday along with routine games and tournaments. More important than his rising stature, he’s also become a pillar for the Mexican community — the majority of the kids in Los Lobos are of Mexican descent, and his league provides a welcoming, stabilizing presence for the youth in the area.
“One of the reasons why I love soccer so much is because of the power it has to unite communities,” said Luis. “Over these past couple of years having Los Lobos here, and now with the new [Rebuild] park, you see many different communities coming together for their love of the game. I think that’s wonderful.”
Los Lobos’ growth over the years has been nothing short of incredible. These days, a regular practice session at Capitolo consists of 200 kids playing on eight mini soccer pitches divided up across Capitolo’s extensive grounds — all split up by age group, sporting different color jerseys, cleats and running through drills supervised by a network of assistant head coaches.
Many in the neighborhood commend Luis’ dedication to serving his community’s youth, but he remains humble.
Why did he choose to dedicate himself to this public service?
He cites his daughter and family again as being the main inspiration behind Los Lobos, but he says there’s another thing that keeps his drive going: giving the youth in the community a positive outlet.
“I understand the power that soccer has,” he said. “I know this league eliminates negative distractions for our youth.”
That power is proven whenever Luis reunites with a former Los Lobos player all grown up. He gets emotional as he recounts those instances, especially a recent one involving a former player that’s now 24.
“He’s in college. I remember when he first started playing, just a small kid, and now he’s way bigger than me,” said Luis. “It felt great to see him. It’s a blessing to know that soccer has helped some kids stay on the right track and provide them a better future. If they come to be with me and kick a ball and run around for two hours instead of being on the street, then I feel like I am doing my job. That’s what Los Lobos is all about.”
In another 10 years, where does Luis see Los Lobos?
“Philadelphia’s biggest team, of course! Or maybe at least the second biggest club, behind the Union. I’d love to continue to grow the scale of my league, and have some of the older kids play on professional size pitches.”
Luis continues to dream big. It is grassroots efforts like his and those alike that are pushing the game of fútbol forward in Philly and across the nation.
With massive world sporting events like the World Cup coming to the U.S. (and Philly) in 2026, that growth will only continue to flourish with leaders like Luis set to benefit big.
“Oh man, I can already see it. Fútbol will hopefully soon become this country’s number one sport. I have seen it grow tremendously in my time here. If it stays on that same path, it will be huge,” he said. “Especially for our kids. I think the World Cup being hosted here will be amazing for the future of the game and I can’t wait to watch it happen.”
Luis Uribe does not have a formal nonprofit organization tied to Los Lobos. He largely comes out of his own pocket to procure equipment and any resources needed to maintain and grow his league. He sometimes receives direct donations so he can further drive his efforts– if interested in supporting Los Lobos, please contact him directly at 215-485-3893.