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Football saved my life says Dwayne Blake

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Photo: Dwayne “Bruky” Blake

Most young boys in Jamaica get involved with football at a very early age, playing for the love of the game, but that isn’t the case for Dwayne Blake who is affectionately called ‘Bruky’. Assistant coach for the Harbour View under-20 football team and equipment manager for the senior team, Blake got involved in the game at age 17.

“I was a student of the Horizon Park Junior High school and finished my formal education at grade 9. I started selling wares on the streets and then I stopped doing that and fell in with the wrong crowd.”

“After I quit school I started running with the wrong crowd. My stepfather kicked me out of the house at age 14 when my stepsister saw me with a gun. He demanded that I left. I went to live in an abandoned house for about 2 years.”

Blake decided to turn around his life after a brush with death where he was physically assaulted by three men, one of who had a gun. “I could have lost my life, they could easily have killed me and at that point I decided that enough was enough,” he explained.

Blake then began his love affair with the world’s favourite sport. “I had companions who were much younger than me and I followed them over to GC Foster College where Hazard United (Portmore United) was training. We were watching the training session and going for the balls when they left the playing area. Horace Reid saw me and offered me a job to be the ball boy and water boy in one. He started me off at $500 per week.

“The choice was to accept that small salary or go back to my old lifestyle. I chose football. I got a chance to leave my old neighbourhood in Winters Pen in Spanish Town and go live in Constant Spring. The change of environment helped me a lot in meeting a lot of influential people and all the players that were representing Jamaica. I got to travel all over the island with the Portmore team, getting to know the country better.”

The now father of three boys, then left Portmore United and took up a job with Harbour View FC where he says his life got even better and his first son was born in 2005 when he was 22 years old.

“Harbour View allowed me to learn a lot more about the coaching aspects of the game under the guidance of Lenny Hyde. After Hyde left, the Brazilian Waldemar Oliveria took over and told me to have higher ambitions than being an equipment manager. There was no future in that he explained. But coaching would offer a lot more opportunities.”

Pointing to a high point in his life Blake said, “I travelled with Harbour View to Trinidad for the Caribbean Cup where we won 11-10 on penalties over Joe Public (Jack Warner’s team). Warner presented me with the medal and it was a big deal for me to meet such famous and powerful people. The assistance from Andrew Hinds to get my passport to get the freedom to travel is something I appreciate to this day.

“In 2008 Oliviera took me to Mexico with the Harbour View team where we played Pumas, it was my second time travelling.”

Blake has nothing but good things to say about his Harbour View “family”. “Ms Massy, the manager of the Harbour View team, treated me like a son. She gave me whatever she had, there was nothing too good for me to get.Carvel Stewart, Clyde Juredini and others in the organization have been so good to me I can’t even explain it.”

“My three sons won’t make the same mistakes I made because I am able to offer them more than I had growing up.”

“I took up a job at the JFF in 2009-2011 before returning to Harbour View. In 2010 I went to Brazil with the Under 17 team as the equipment manager and got my first US visa. In 2011 we qualified for the Under 17 World Cup in Mexico and this made me even happier that I had quit the gangster lifestyle.”

“Earlier this year I completed the JFF Level 1 course. I am now certified and I am hoping to learn off the senior coaches around me. Next on my agenda is the Level 2. I want to coach here at Harbour View but if an opportunity comes for me to take up a post elsewhere I would consider it. But for now I am focused on Harbour View.”

A thankful Blake expressed his gratitude to a number of people, “I am grateful to Portmore and Harbour View and the JFF, most importantly Mr. Reid who gave me my first job in football.”

“Coach Olivera’s stint was very short, less than a season but it had a significant effect on my life. I don’t want to be an ordinary coach; I want to be a coach that makes a real impact on football.”

“Thanks to my wife Suzette who has always supported everything that I do and my church family who has also been a tower of support. I must give thanks to the Almighty for helping me to realize my full potential. With him all things are possible. I would encourage kids to find something they love and are passionate about and put their heart and God in it. Pray a lot and know that God will come through for you.”

A devout Christian, Blake has this bit of advice to those who are in or considering a gangster lifestyle, “Pursue a proper career. The gangster life will only take you 6 foot 6. Thanks to GOD for helping me to turn my life around. Without Him I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”

Now married and completely settled, the father of three boys is ready to change the world in his own unique way, using the same gift that saved his own life.

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