Celebrating stories of Ontarians: Dwayne De Rosario, Member of the Order of Ontario

Provided by the OCNA
Celebrating stories of Ontarians: Dwayne De Rosario, Member of the Order of Ontario
Ontario Lieutenant Governor The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

For some, the decision of what path to take in life comes easy. It requires life-changing moments of realization for others: That was certainly the case for Dwayne de Rosario. For the teenager living in Scarborough in the mid-90s, the near-death experience of being shot in the eye with a gun packed with dirt and nails—as detailed in his new memoir, DeRo: My Life (ECW), co-written with Brendan Dunlop—made the decision clear. “All signs were leading to self-destruction,” he now says. “Doing better required me to have a dedicated and diligent mind towards my career.”

Rosario was a promising soccer player at that age, travelling to tournaments and tryouts in Europe and North and South America. He was also drawn to life on the streets, dealing drugs. As he writes, “The hardest part is training on your own when you see other people in your community making decent money. You’re not looking at the consequence; you’re looking at the financial gain.”

Once resolved, De Rosario’s new focus made him a star in Major League Soccer. In his 14 years with the league, he won four titles with two different teams and was a seven-time all-star. He also captained the Canadian national men’s team and became its all-time leading scorer. In 2020, when he received the Order of Ontario, the citation mentioned how “his greatness extends far beyond the professional soccer stage.” Today, he uses his experience and wisdom to help young people succeed.

De Rosario’s DeRo Foundation offers an after-school program in Scarborough. It has also run camps in the Caribbean, including in Guyana, where De Rosario’s parents emigrated from in 1973. The foundation, he explains, provides “a safe space for inner-city kids, using soccer to teach them about health and wellness, financial literacy, the importance of community, and being a team player and a better citizen.”

De Rosario also runs the DeRo TFC academy to help those who want to pursue soccer; it deploys major-league resources to support up-and-coming players and coaches.

De Rosario had two stints playing with TFC, and since retiring, he has become an ambassador for the club. He believes that sports promote inclusion. “They break down boundaries and open up doors to learn about different cultures,” he says. “I truly believe they bring the community together.”

Inclusion is an issue De Rosario takes personally. He experienced racism in his career—from fans and even fellow players in Germany in the late 1990s and then in pockets of the United States. Prior to a 2001 MLS Cup Final in Columbus, Ohio, a Ku Klux Klan rally forced him to stay in his hotel room.

Today, he says, “There’s still subtle racism across Canada and Ontario, in terms of not having equal opportunities for [people of] various races. I think a lot more work still has to be done; a lot more trust has to be given and earned. Once that happens, we’ll see a much better world and much better sports.”

As sports stadiums, including TFC’s BMO Field, open once again and as Canada prepares to welcome the globe for the 2026 World Cup, Canadians will be put to the test on the reality of our values. As a country amid a life-changing moment of realization, the path has been made clear. As De Rosario’s own life shows, the journey to be better starts with choosing to walk it.

— The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

One of a Lieutenant Governor’s great privileges is to celebrate Ontarians from all backgrounds and corners of the province. Ontario’s honours and awards formally and publicly acknowledge the excellence, achievements, and contributions of role models from all walks of life. In doing so, they strengthen the fabric of communities and shape the aspirations of Ontarians.  Learn more: https://www.ontario.ca/page/honours-and-awards

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