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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Josh Luckhurst

Sir Mo Farah pays tribute to PE teacher Alan Watkinson who transformed his life

Sir Mo Farah paid tribute to the PE teacher which helped transform his life from illegal immigrant to Britain's most successful track athlete in modern Olympics history.

In an astonishing revelation during a BBC documentary - The Real Mo Farah - which aired on Wednesday night, the four-time Olympic gold medallist opened up about the secret he had been running away from for over 30 years.

Mohamed Farah is not his real name. He revealed he was born Hussein Abdi Kahin in Somaliland and that he is an illegal immigrant, who was smuggled into the UK by traffickers when he was nine.

Sir Mo Farah was smuggled into the UK by traffickers when he was nine (Getty Images)

He was brought here under a false identity to work as a servant after his father was killed in the civil war.

Sir Mo, 39, spoke about his early experiences of the family he lived with and admitted that "the only thing I could do to get away from this [living situation] was to get out and run".

After eventually being allowed to attend Feltham Community College at the age of 11, he built a strong bond with Alan Watkinson over the course of the next few years and disclosed his secret to the PE teacher.

Mo trusted Alan Watkinson enough to confide in him about his secret (BBC/Atomized Studios/Andy Boag)

Watkinson said: "Mo told me he wasn't the son of the person he was living with, that he'd been brought over to do all the jobs, look after the smaller children.

"He also explained his name wasn't Mohamed Farah. He was removed from his family, given a new identity and brought over here to do jobs and chores. That was obviously quite a shocking revelation to hear."

Watkinson alerted social services who helped Mo move into the home of a Somali school friend, where he ended up living for seven years.

Speaking about the move, Farah said: "I still missed my real family but from that moment, everything got better.

'The only thing I could do to get away from this [living situation] was to get out and run' (AFP via Getty Images)

"I felt like a lot stuff was lifted from my shoulders and I felt like me and that's when the real Mo came out. The real Mo. Just being free."

Watkinson added: "From that point on, he was Mohamed Farah. Nobody had address what he had said in terms of his identity and Mo just became Mo.

"It was just a remarkable transformation. We had good runners before, we had good athletes before but the progress from there was just stratospheric."

At 14, when Mo was selected to compete for English schools at a race in Latvia, it became apparent he did not have the right documentation to travel abroad.

Watkinson, who explained how the process to obtain his British citizenship was long, said: “We just bombarded them with communication about this.

"It was three or four years after he made the disclosure to me that his identity wasn't Mohamed Farah and, by that point. nobody was thinking back to the time he came over with a different identity. He was Mo."

On July 25, 2000, Mo was recognised as a British citizen.

Mo, reacting to the document declaring his British citizenship, said: "Honestly, for me it's been years of [putting it to the] back of your mind, back of your mind, and taking this step the last thing I want to do in terms of being honest is cause a problem for you. I don't know what's going to happen."

Alan and Mo looking at documents regarding the latter's British citizenship (BBC/Atomized Studios/Andy Boag)

Watkinson replied: "It's only recently really that I have thought about it and questioned whether I did anything wrong in this scenario, but when I think back, I don't think either I or the school did do anything wrong. You were Mohamed Farah."

The PE teacher also dropped a revelation of his own when discussing Mo's situation.

"The thing that strikes me, the year before you came to school I taught another boy called Mohamed Farah," he said.

Mo was brought into the UK to work as a domestic servant (BBC)

"There was another boy called Mohamed Farah at the school and he was there for about a couple of months at most and he just disappeared.

"Nobody knew what happened to him or where he went but thinking back now and about your story, was there any connection at all between that Mohamed Farah and your circumstances?"

The friendship between the pair has remained intact throughout Sir Mo's success and when the track superstar married Tania Nell in 2010, Alan was his best man.

Farah is Britain's most successful track athlete in modern Olympics history (AFP via Getty Images)

Sir Mo took to social media before the airing of the documentary to dedicate the film about his upbringing to his family.

He wrote: "I’m so proud have represented Great Britain and to achieved what I have as a GB athlete. But, my proudest achievement will always be being a husband and father to my amazing family.

"I did this documentary for them, so they could understand more about the experiences that led us to becoming the family we are today. Not every child will have the easiest start in life, but that doesn’t mean they can’t go on to achieve their dreams."

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