Fresh from meeting one of his heroes, Team Scotland player Dean Lawrie is looking ahead to his second trip to California in eight years.
Dean has been a Street Soccer player in Edinburgh for a number of years and was seen as a fantastic candidate to be part of the Team Scotland squad travelling to Sacramento for the Homeless World Cup. As part of the squad announcement, Dean sat down with Street Soccer ambassador and Scotland captain Andy Robertson to discuss his journey.
His first visit to the sunshine state came in 2015 as part of the Team GB who won gold at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles. Dean has mild learning difficulties and was selected for the squad after impressing at national trials.
“This will be my second visit to California! I travelled to be part of the Special Olympics in 2015 as part of Team GB. After a trials process, I was delighted to find out I was part of the squad. It was 11-a-side football in the Games and we were fortunate enough to win the whole thing!
The whole experience was amazing and I’m sure I can bring some of that into this summer. The feeling of being a champion was second to none. We won on penalties which was a great way to win it and the squad understood each other really well, so it shows the power of a team. I want to implement that with Team Scotland in Sacramento.”
Using that experience will be vital for the squad and although he loves to crack the jokes when with the squad, Dean believes that the Homeless World Cup will have a range of benefits for the boys.
“The bond between the squad currently is good and I am sure we have a great chance of doing well. Football allows us to connect in a unique way and communication skills are really important. We have been enjoying training and all the other stuff that has come with it.
I think the experience for the Homeless World Cup will be great for us. I remember having a great chat with a man from Jamaica at the Special Olympics and to understand a bit more about people who share similar challenges to yourself is really important. It builds trust and gives you a bit of hope. I think we will all get the chance to do that this summer.”
Joining as a Street Soccer player through the recommendation of his brother, Dean has found sessions to be a safe haven to enjoy his football and meet new friends.
“I was homeless at the time of finding Street Soccer and have engaged ever since as I could see the benefits right away. I’ve played mostly at Portobello, trying to make drop in sessions almost every week and the sessions gave me a bit of structure. The big thing for me is being able to forget about what’s going on in life once I step on to the pitch.
Robbie has been a brilliant help for me and is really understanding. To have him as a coach for this experience has been really good for me. Over the past few years, I knew I wanted to engage more. I wasn’t in a great place a few years ago and I knew that this would pick me up. Being able to make friends on and off the pitch is a bonus too.”
Dean knows that the structure and routine of weekly sessions can help build a more positive lifestyle. He discusses his experience with homelessness and what the tournament can do to help make change.
“The structure of the sessions means I know where to ask for help and being able to seek the answers to things I am maybe not best place to know. When you are homeless, you do feel a bit vulnerable and lonely but having opportunities such as the Homeless World Cup allows you to look forward and raises your confidence.
I am currently in a PSL house and have been for a few months. It has its ups and downs but I think there needs to be more awareness of the homelessness issues across Scotland.
Events such as the Homeless World Cup does a great job of breaking down that stigma around homelessness. We’re all in the same boat and being able to be part of that community whilst we’re there will be a special feeling.”
Football has always been a constant for Dean and he believes that this next step on his journey can help him inspire others, thanks to the support he’s received.
“I have a lot to thankful for through football. I am a player for Street Soccer and a player for Spartans Connections, who are one of the biggest para-clubs in Scotland. The support I get is tremendous. I know I can be part of an environment which is open and comfortable to get things off your chest. I have been a low points and these organisations have really helped bring me back up.”
If you want to find out more about how Street Soccer sessions can help you, find your nearest sessions online.