TAKING part in a prestigious sporting event with an important social message is helping Dan McLean maintain his new positive outlook on his life and future.
The 21-year-old is starring for Scotland at the 16th edition of the Homeless World Cup in Mexico City – and loving every minute of it.
But Dan hasn’t had it easy and like many of his team-mates he has had a number of demons in his life including addiction.
This time last year he was in a homeless hostel and those demons were making him spiral out of control.
After getting involved with social enterprise Street Soccer Scotland, Dan has started to turn his life around and football has been the driving force.
The Homeless World Cup is more than just a game for Dan. It’s about relationships, memories and shared experiences as well as putting lives back together that have been torn apart.
Scotland’s men and women are training and playing hard in Mexico, and between matches there are practice drills, coaching sessions and team talks.
Tireless Dan is at the heart of it the action on the astroturf pitches in Mexico City’s iconic Zocalo Square.
He said: “Football saved my life. If I hadn’t got back involved in football I’d either be in prison or on the streets. It’s as simple as that. Football can change people’s lives and I hope that when I get back home my story can help other people.
“Getting back into the game is the most positive thing that’s happened to me in a long time and I mean that. I played a lot of football when I was younger but it never really worked out and I lost my way. But this is like a second chance for me.
“It’s a dream come true to be at a World Cup and playing for my country. I am the proudest man on the planet right now. Football is my life and I know I’m the most passionate footballer in this entire tournament – no doubt about it.
“Things weren’t easy for me. I found myself in a homeless shelter and it was tough. My support worker mentioned Street Soccer Scotland and I wasn’t sure at first but I went down and met the coaches. They just made me feel welcome.”
He added: “Within a few weeks they had helped get me into temporary accommodation. Then they mentioned the Homeless World Cup to me and I thought they were just having a laugh. I didn’t believe them at first if I’m totally honest.
“I then went to the trials and now six months on I’m in Mexico City playing for my country against the likes of Brazil. The Homeless World Cup is amazing. It brings people together from all over the world and it’s changing lives.”
Street Soccer Scotland chief executive David Duke, who manages the teams, said: “We are using football to bring a bit of structure and purpose to their lives. They can start building new relationships and that’s when they start moving forward.”