The straphanger fatally slashed in an unprovoked attack on a Penn Station train Sunday was a gifted soccer player who was struggling to get back on his feet after years of homelessness, his former coach says.
Akeem Loney, who was sleeping when he was randomly stabbed in the neck in the early morning, was “just a great guy,” his onetime street-club coach, Reed Fox, told The Post.
“He was a fun-loving guy, and he absolutely loved the game of soccer,” Fox said. “He was reliable, and he was really fun to be around.
“Not everybody working through homelessness and problems can maintain a positive attitude and be happy and find ways to have fun, and he did that,” he said of Loney.
Police said the victim was dozing on a No. 2 northbound train shortly after midnight when he was randomly stabbed in the neck in what MTA officials called an “absolutely horrible crime.”
Loney was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Investigators later released surveillance photos of the suspect.
Fox said he met Loney — known to friends simply as “Lonny” — in 2017 when he joined the then-new adult portion of Street Soccer USA, a Manhattan-based recreational program for special-needs and homeless Big Apple kids.
He said Loney’s infectious upbeat attitude and passion for soccer made him a popular member of the program, particularly among the younger players.
Fox said Loney coached the youngsters and once spoke to a fifth-grade class in The Bronx on the stigma and challenges of being homeless in the city.
Although Fox relocated to California, he said others who kept more in touch with Loney told him that the victim lived at the men’s homeless shelter on Ward’s Island but may have been getting back on his feet.
“In speaking with some of his friends, he was working again, at a restaurant,” Fox said. “I wasn’t exactly sure of his living situation, but by all accounts, it sounded like he was in a pretty decent place.”