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the footballer forced to rebuild
It is said life is what happens to
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you when you are busy making other plans. Despite being released by Birmingham City as a 15-year-old who had spent five years with the club, Charlie Fogarty was intent on following his plan of making it as a footballer. Small for his age but a technically gifted defender who was representing Northern Ireland at youth level, he was six weeks into a trial with MK Dons when life intervened.
Crossing the road after alighting from a bus on his way to training in March 2012, Fogarty was hit by a car. He took the full impact on his head, resulting in a huge shaking of his brain.
Rushed to Birmingham Children’s hospital, he spent 11 days in intensive care, followed by four months on the neurosurgical ward. It was not until Fogarty was in an ambulance being transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Tadworth, Surrey, that he came out of what was ostensibly a five-month coma.
“I was strapped into a stretcher and I couldn’t move my legs or anything but I just waved at my mum, who was there beside me,” he says, almost six years later. “For some reason – and I don’t know why it was – I
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didn’t get angry. I just accepted that something had happened to me. At
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the time I just didn’t know what.”
By his side was where mum, Sara, had spent most of her time since learning of his accident. His dad, Mark, then head of recruitment at Coventry City, scheduled his visits around looking after the couple’s other children, Tommy and Emma. They had been at Tommy’s eighth birthday party when police alerted them to their eldest son’s accident and rushed them to hospital. Nobody in the speeding car knew whether Charlie was alive or dead.
“We got there and he was having scans and after about an hour we got the news he was OK and we were allowed to see him,” Mark says. “But what we didn’t realise was that he was in intensive care. He actually wasn’t OK, even though we thought he was going to wake up any minute. His eyes opened after he was back on the neuro ward after a couple of weeks, but he was in a type of a coma. He wasn’t doing anything and he remained not doing anything for four months.”
Sitting at the kitchen table of their home
on the outskirts of Solihull, Charlie and his father make for an often amusing double act as they recount the story of how a kid with a promising future in football had to learn how to walk, talk and feed himself again from scratch. He has done all that and much more, maturing into an inspirational young man who was awarded an MBE in the New Year honours list for his services to youth and presented with his medal by Prince William at a Buckingham Palace ceremony.
In between continuing rehab, focusing on the sports science degree he will complete in a few months and representing Northern Ireland in two Cerebral Palsy World Cups, Charlie has also begun a career as a motivational speaker and is the player-manager of the Solihull Moors Open Age football programme he set up for
people who, like him, love playing football but for various reasons beyond their control could not find anywhere to play. His father is the head of sport at the National League club, where he has built the academy from scratch since leaving his job at Coventry 11 months after the accident to look after his son.
“It was just looking at myself really, knowing I couldn’t play anywhere as well as I used to,” Charlie says. “And I started thinking about other kids who love the game but can’t play because there’s no team for them. So I set up Solihull Moors and it kind of gained momentum because of the contacts my dad has in the game. He was able to help establish it.”
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