THEY say stars cannot shine without darkness and for a Lisbellaw man who suffered with dyslexia and is now “living the dream” after being offered a place at Crystal Palace those words ring true.
Mark Foster, the son of Neville and Ruth Foster, says he is “over the moon” after being offered a part time position with the professional football club in London as a sports masseuse. 
Having been diagnosed with dyslexia while a schoolboy at Lisbellaw Primary School, which continued during his time at Devenish College, he suffered anxiety from a young age. 
“The dyslexia tore the confidence out of me right through primary school and into secondary school. I suffered a lot of high anxiety, it held me back, but I made sure it never affected by personality,” Mr. Foster told The Impartial Reporter.
“My concentration skills were affected, I wasn’t taking enough information in and if I did take something in I couldn’t write it down on paper. When I finished school I had to put in the extra work just to get through it. I struggled through all subjects. I used to think when I was leaving school I’d be doing nothing, I am going nowhere, I felt sorry for myself,” said the 25 year old.
Mr. Foster said he felt like he had “lost hope” and that he was “wasn’t going to be good enough.”
“I used to think that I couldn’t do what others could do, that I wasn’t going to get to go to college or anywhere in life. I came home from school and I’d be worried about my work, not able to complete homework, I was afraid of it all being wrong because I couldn’t get a simple question or a simple sum right,” he said, paying tribute to his school teachers.
“They were brilliant, I felt I couldn’t push myself anymore. But then when I left school I wanted to be ambitious,” he said.
After leaving school at 18, Mr. Foster enrolled in a sports course at South West College, thanks to the persistence and advice from his aunt Christine Woods.
“She told me to do it, she told me to spread my wings. One of my modules was sports massage. I felt that I liked it, I thought I’d love to do that professionally. That was my dream, I never give up on that hope.”
After a two year course at Belfast Metropolitan College, Mr. Foster continued to progress and while his anxiety was still there, he was determined to keep going. After a trip to London to visit his girlfriend, Sarah Mayne and a chance encounter with someone at Crystal Palace, he applied for an internship at the football club. Then he was called for an interview.
“I remember after the interview I was back home helping out with the silage when they rang me. I was in the tractor, I had to turn it off. They said: ‘Mark we’d like to take you on as an internship’. I couldn’t believe it,” he said.  Mr. Foster has since accepted a part time role with the club.
He pays tribute to Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Leisure, Recreation and Sport Officer Chris Elliott, describing him as “a brilliant guy” who supported him and has spoken of his appreciation for his girlfriend, parents and sister Lynn for “going above and beyond for me. “My mum, dad and sister have been fantastic through the tough times, pushing me when I needed it, cheering me up when I’ve been down, talking to me. I’ve always been thankful for them.”
“This is what dreams are all about,” smiled Mr. Foster. “My advice to others is talk to people, be adventurous, never give up, battle on.”