'Selfless' Glasgow teen rallies Bellahouston community to help Ethiopian kids

Emmanuel Gebreyes <i>(Image: Colin Mearns, Newsquest)</i>
Emmanuel Gebreyes (Image: Colin Mearns, Newsquest)

Football-daft teenager Emmanuel Gebreyes was upset to hear friends in his dad’s home village in Ethiopia were struggling to afford kit and equipment.

So the Bellahouston Academy pupil decided to do something about it, roping in friends, family and the local community to help.

“They just wanted to play football, just like we do here in Glasgow,” he explains.

“So I started fundraising and we got about £1000, which will be used to build goalposts, and we managed to get more than 200 kits.”

Emmanuel is a finalist in the Young category in the Glasgow Community Champion Awards, run by the Glasgow Times in association with Glasgow City Council, Wheatley Glasgow, Trades House of Glasgow and Merck. The winners will be announced on December 8 at the Grand Final in Glasgow City Chambers.

Emmanuel’s dad grew up in Addis Alem, and his work - he is a haematologist – brought him to Glasgow. Emmanuel’s gran and other family members still stay in the village, so when the 16-year-old heard about the local team’s plight, he was quick to act.

Glasgow Times: Emmanuel in Ethiopia with the team.
Glasgow Times: Emmanuel in Ethiopia with the team.

Emmanuel in Ethiopia with the team. (Image: Emmanuel Gebreyes)

Organising fundraising and collecting donations, he encouraged his pals to bring in old kits, which his mum washed and packaged up before the family headed out to Ethiopia to hand them over.

“It was really great to go over and meet the team. They train as much as they can, and I spent about three hours playing with them,” he says, adding with a grin: “They were pretty good as well.”

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Ejere Youth Football Team gave Emmanuel a warm welcome, and gave his family Ethiopian cultural clothing as a thank-you.

“It was such a nice touch, as it came out of the coach’s pockets, it was really special,” he says.

Emmanuel, who lives in Bellahouston with his parents and two brothers, Brook, nine, and five-year-old Liyou, added: "We took over three big gym bags. It isn't terrible there, but it's not like here where there are so many avenues to get kits. I was happy to help.”

Emmanuel has played football for the Giffnock Soccer Centre since he was four, and when he lived in Johnstone, he was part of St Mirren’s boys’ development squad.

“I’ve always loved it,” he explains.

“When you feel like you have a million problems, and stuff to do like tests and homework, the minute you get on the pitch that’s all forgotten. It’s also helped me make friends from outside school, from all over.”

Emmanuel is one of Bellahouston Academy's school captains, and he plays for the school football team. He helps organise fundraising events, such as the forthcoming winter ceilidh, and is on the sports panel of Young Scot. He also plays trumpet and piano, and is preparing for the school's festive concerts.

He is hoping to follow in his parents' footsteps - his mum is an oncologist - and study medicine, when he leaves school.

To the young players - and some of the older ones - in Addis Alem, Emmanuel is a hero, but he insists it was a team effort.

“A lot of my classmates and friends helped with the project,” he says.

“The school was amazing too, helping set up collection points in the PE department.

“I was shocked to be nominated for an award, I didn’t think I was doing anything special although it was really cool to see how happy everyone was when we handed over the kits."

He says, smiling: “I’m really proud to be recognised in the Glasgow Community Champion Awards, it’s amazing.”

Barry Mochan, headteacher at Bellahouston Academy, said: “As a school, we are all very proud of Emmanuel.

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“He is an outstanding young person, who has very a strong belief in the power of community, and consistently promotes values of compassion and empathy.

“His recent project in Ethiopia is only one example of the many valuable activities he has selflessly undertaken over the last few years to benefit other people.

"We are delighted to call him a pupil of Bellahouston Academy, and feel he would be an exceptionally worthy recipient of a Community Champion award.”