By Brian Kluepfel
Dwayne DeRosario grew up in Canada, and now lives in San Jose, California, but everything about him, from his lilting patois and Rastafarian dreadlocks, to his diet, has roots in the West Indian culture of Guyana, where his parents were born. DeRosario is a vegan, and also a professional soccer player, a sport that demands the utmost of its participants for 90 time-out-free minutes. He shrugs off the unique aspect of his lifestyle. “It’s just something that you do,” he says.
Dwayne was raised on roots. “I grew up on ‘provisions’ in Toronto, we call it ‘yard food.’ You know, sweet potato, plantain, okra, cassava. Now and then you have a little meat. Toronto has such a big West Indian community, you know where to go to find things. In San Jose, I have to go to Whole Foods!”
Dwayne went to a strict vegan diet seven years ago when lactose intolerance became a problem. But he was simply following in the footsteps of his older brother, who had gone the vegetarian route a few years earlier. “Ever since then, I feel much better,” he says. Not that the well-being comes without a certain vigilance. “I have to take care of myself. If you eat the way I do, and you get the wrong thing, your stomach will go out.”
DeRosario’s soccer-related globetrotting began at age 17, when he joined the Canadian National Team. The next year he turned professional at FSV Zwickau in Germany’s second division. In his two years there, he had to be creative to get the foods he needed. “My parents would send me packages from back home, but also, my roommate and I would drive to African markets in West Germany. Everywhere you go, you can find things. You just have to mix with people.”
He has never shied away from being a spokesperson for vegetarianism. “Through my whole life (he just turned 23) people have been questioning me about it, but I take on the questions. I do my research, and they have to know that I know what I’m doing and take care of myself. I’m fit, and they don’t look at me a different way (because of what I eat).”
His accomplishments on the field speak volumes. He returned to North America in 1999 to play for the A-League’s Richmond (Virginia) Kickers, and last year led the team in goals (15) and assists (5). This was noticed by the Earthquakes of Major League Soccer, the top US league, and he joined them over the winter.
He also hopes to spread the word to the next generation about his healthy regimen. “I’d like to do a commercial for soy products that promotes health consciousness,” he says. “You let people know that you can still get the same protein, vitamins, calcium, and whatever you need from eating this way. Hey, the biggest animals in the world are vegetarians!” he laughs.
His is a demanding lifestyle: in one recent six-day stretch, he played in San Jose, flew to Egypt and played in two games for the Canadian National Team, and then returned to Kansas City for yet another match with the Earthquakes. This summer, in the midst of the MLS campaign, he also played for the Canadian National Team in a tournament in Japan.
As for his culinary habits when off the road, Dwayne and his wife Brandy both are cooks, and enjoy nothing more than a bit of “Ital stew” (ital meaning “good life” in the West Indian/ Rasta culture). “Ital stew, it’s soya (tofu), curry sauce, ya steam down some cabbage, boil some potatoes, throw in a little brown rice, basmati rice, broccoli.”
He’s earned the respect of his teammates and coach, fellow Canadian Frank Yallop. Playing at breakneck pace and covering both ends of the field, Dwayne tallied a team-leading eight points (3 goals and 2 assists) in his first six games with San Jose. His commitment on the field has been instrumental in turning the fortunes of a team that finished last in the league in 2000.
His dynamism on the pitch is noticeable: at a wiry 5’10” and 164 lbs, he is by far the most active player on both ends of the field, winning balls on offense and defense, making insightful passes, taking the occasional shot, and bouncing back to his feet like a windup toy after the collisions that seem an inevitable by-product of his frenetic playing style. “Hey, he’s fit and he trains hard,” says Yallop. “If he can last 90 minutes out there, he can eat the bark off trees, as far as I’m concerned.”