When it comes to running, few athletes boast a resume as stunning as that of Sir Mo Farah. The four-time Olympic champion has not only come to dominate the 5000m and 10,000m events, but even tried his hand at the marathon with remarkable results. It seems that no distance is too great for Farah, whose incredible work ethic and dedication have made him a household name, coupled with an unbridled enthusiasm and infectious energy that have inspired countless others around the world to take up the sport of running.
While we’ve come to know Farah from his track-side interviews and appearances at world championships and Olympic events, the running phenomenon has since opened up about his childhood, revealing in an interview with the BBC that he was illegally trafficked into Britain under the name of another child as a nine-year-old and forced into domestic servitude.
In the past, Farah has said he left Somali at the age of just eight to join his father after his parents made the decision to send three of their six children to London in the hope of attaining a better future and life for themselves. But this narrative has since been dispelled as Farah reveals in a new documentary, The Real Mo Farah, how he came to be trafficked by a stranger under an assumed name after escaping war in Somalia.
As the 39-year-old explains in the documentary, “Most people know me as Mo Farah, but it’s not my name or it’s not the reality. The real story is I was born in Somaliland, north of Somalia, as Hussein Abdi Kahin. Despite what I’ve said in the past, my parents never lived in the UK.”
After arriving in Britain, Farah lived with a married couple who treated him badly. It was thanks to his PE teacher at school, Alan Watkinson, that he was able to leave their home and apply for British citizenship using his assumed name. As Farah admits, the name Mohamed Farah was stolen from another child and used to create a fake passport. “When I was four my dad was killed in the civil war, you know as a family we were torn apart,” he said. “I was separated from my mother, and I was brought into the UK illegally under the name of another child called Mohamed Farah.”
Farah explains how he and his twin, Hassan, were sent by their mother to live with an uncle in neighbouring Djibouti for their safety, only for a woman to visit the house several ties to observe him, telling his family she would take him to Europe to live with relatives. Instead, after arriving in the UK, Farah was presented with a bleak reality. “I had all the contact details for my relative and once we got to her house, the lady took it off me and right in front of me ripped them up and put it in the bin, and at that moment I knew I was in trouble,” he said.
Since becoming a father himself, Farah feels motivated to be truthful about his past, understanding the importance of family and those stories we pass on to future generations. “Family means everything to me and, you know, as a parent, you always teach your kids to be honest, but I feel like I’ve always had that private thing where I could never be me and tell what’s really happened,” he said.
“I’ve been keeping it for so long, it’s been difficult because you don’t want to face it and often my kids ask questions, ‘Dad, how come this?’ And you’ve always got an answer for everything, but you haven’t got an answer for that.”