Scots footballer helping children in Africa take up game after car crash ended career

The story of how a former footballer helped children in Africa take up the sport after his career was ended by a car crash is to be made into a movie.

Mark Holmes, who used to play for Falkirk, Ross County and Inverness Caley Thistle, was only 26 when the accident put paid to his ambitions.

But he went on to set up a Mark Holmes Football Academy in Inverness and now runs three sites in Ghana which are changing young players’ lives.

Mark said: “I was contacted by a young coach from Ghana called Solomon Owusu.

“He started off with just four youngsters until we had over 600 kids in that one academy providing them with schooling, food and accommodation.”



Academy team and Solomon with players

His inspirational journey is to become the focus of a documentary and a movie by award-winning African director Michael Amoah.

Mark added: “I met with Michael and he liked what I was doing. He has already been to Scotland to cover the Scottish side of things for a documentary before going back to Ghana.

“He has also written a script for a movie of a little boy who has a dream of being a footballer and comes to the academy.”

Mark initially ran the academies in Ghana by working with Solomon on Facebook Messenger and FaceTime. He said: “I had been man-managing things on the phone.

“In 2019, I went over to Ghana to see the academy with my own eyes and could see the great work they were all doing.



Mark’s career was ended by a car crash

“We started getting a lot of radio and television coverage in Africa. I have got quite a few of the kids into a private school where they would usually have to pay to go to school.

“I struck a deal with the headmaster where I give him the best footballers as long as they are academic and get them into the school for nothing.

“I got a lot of the kids into public schools as well. I have 80 kids who live at the academy accommodation and the rest are less than an hour or so away and come to train every day. ”

He has already changed the lives of thousands of young kids, many of whom arrived at his academies in Ghana malnourished. They are given a place to stay, three meals a day and schooling.

Among them is Albert, an orphan who walked over 100 miles to join the academy.

Mark said: “Albert was eight years old when he started at the academy in 2019.

“He had no shoes or anything yet he and his uncle, who could not afford to feed him, had walked and hitched lifts to reach the academy. Albert is now in the private school. ”



Mark runs three sites in Ghana

The kids’ day starts at 5am and includes a two-hour training session. Before breakfast, they wash their clothes. Mark added: “They come back from school and do their homework. They are not all going to be professional footballers but, at least, they will have an education.

“The kids are from poor backgrounds and arrive with swollen bellies having been scraping around for food. Now they are getting three meals a day.

“They were sleeping on cardboard or on the ground but I raised funds to get bunk beds.

“Everyone in the local community here in Inverness is involved in raising money. We built a water tower that is not just for my academy. Locals take water from it. I have a good team around me and it wouldn’t be possible without them. “

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