Scottish footballer helps kids in Africa get back to playing after career-ending car crash


The story of a former footballer who helped African children practice sport after his career ended in a car accident will be turned into a film.

Mark Holmes, who played for Falkirk, Ross County and Inverness Caley Thistle, was just 26 when the accident ended his ambitions.

But then he set up the Mark Holmes Football Academy in Inverness and now runs three venues in Ghana that are changing the lives of young players.

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

“It started with just four youngsters until we had over 600 children in this academy alone, providing them with education, food and accommodation.”

The Academy team and Salomon with the players

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

Mark added: “I met Michael and he liked what I was doing. He once traveled to Scotland to cover the Scottish side of things for a documentary before returning to Ghana.

“He also wrote a screenplay for a film about a little boy who dreams of being a footballer and comes to the academy.”

Mark first ran the academies in Ghana working with Solomon on Facebook Messenger and FaceTime. He said: “I had handled things over the phone.

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

Mark’s career ended in a car accident

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

“I made a deal with the director where I give him the best footballers as long as they are academic and bring them into school for nothing.

“I also got a lot of kids into public schools. I have 80 children who live in the academy accommodation and the rest are less than an hour away and come to practice every day.

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

Among them is Albert, an orphan who walked more than 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, but he and his uncle, who couldn’t afford to feed him, had walked and taken elevators to the academy. Albert is now in private school.

Mark manages three sites in Ghana

The children’s day starts at 5 a.m. and includes a two-hour training session. Before breakfast, they wash their clothes. Mark added: “They come home from school and do their homework. They won’t all be professional footballers, but at least they will have an education.

“Children come from poor backgrounds and arrive with swollen bellies after looking for food. Now they receive three meals a day.

“They slept on cardboard or on the floor, but I raised funds to have bunk beds.

“Everyone in the local community here in Inverness is involved in fundraising. We’ve built a water tower that’s not just for my academy. The inhabitants draw water from it. I have a good team around me and it wouldn’t be possible without them.

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