Football kept him on the straight and narrow despite a difficult childhood, and former United States international Thomas Silvas, 51, now wants to use the sport to inspire youth - the same way it did for him.
A striker in his playing days in the American professional leagues, his goal is to head Tampines Rovers' football outreach programme, which will be launched in a few months' time.
The initiative is part of the Stags' partnership with innovation venture company Renew Group. The beneficiary will be Beyond Social Services, an organisation that works with disadvantaged youth.
The programme aims to use sports and life coaching coupled with counselling to help these youth re-assimilate into society.
Silvas, who has eight siblings and whose parents separated when he was young, told The Sunday Times yesterday: "Football was a vehicle out of tough times for me. I had to hustle to make my way through and about five years ago, I decided I wanted to not just coach but help kids from disadvantaged families.
"I want to give them hope and the ability to believe in themselves."
Then a youth coach at Almaden FC, he sponsored players who came from poor or troubled families.
He would take them to and from training, provide counselling and help them apply for full college scholarships. The law graduate would also give legal advice to their families.
About two years ago, Silvas, who has a US Soccer Federation 'A' licence, the second-highest coaching qualification in the country, set up the Silvas Family Soccer Foundation to give back to the community.
The father of three, who was capped twice by his country, is here with his 18-year-old son Diego, a promising footballer who enjoyed a stint at Major League Soccer side Seattle Sounders' academy.
Silvas said: "I'm thankful that my family, especially my wife Jennifer, has been supportive of my mission. We can make a huge impact here."
Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra said: "The (outreach) programme is important as it forms the fabric of our philosophy as a club.
"All players, volunteers and staff will be involved. I will certainly be leading from the top."
Chua Siang Yee