Alan Watkinson: who is the PE teacher that helped Mo Farah after he was trafficked to UK and where is he now?

Olympic winner Mo Farah said Alan Watkinson’s mentorship helped him erase the trauma of his childhood

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Olympic hero Sir Mo Farah has praised his PE teacher Alan Watkinson as a key influence on his career.

Sir Mo opened up about his childhood in a new BBC documentary titled The Real Mo Farah where he revealed that he was trafficked into the UK at the age of nine - and was saved by his PE teacher Alan Watkinson.

He said: “If it wasn’t for Alan Watkinson who supported me throughout my childhood then maybe I wouldn’t even have the courage to do this.”

Mo Farah at the Platinum Jubilee. (Getty Images)Mo Farah at the Platinum Jubilee. (Getty Images)
Mo Farah at the Platinum Jubilee. (Getty Images)

What happened to Mo Farah?

The 39-year-old Olympic star has told the BBC he was given the name Mohamed Farah by those who flew him over from Dijbouti - and that his real name was Hussein Abdi Kahin.

He was flown over to the UK by a woman he had never met and wasn’t related to.

She had told him he was being taken to live in Europe with his relatives and would leave Somaliland in the hope of him having a better life.

Upon his arrival in the UK the woman tore up a piece of paper with contact details for his relatives and Mo Farah was forced to work as a domestic servant for the family.

Sir Mo said he had to do housework and childcare and that the woman told him: "If you ever want to see your family again, don’t say anything."

For the first few years the family didn’t allow him to go to school, but when he was about 12 he enrolled in Year 7 at Feltham Community College. His old form tutor Sarah Rennie said he came to school "unkempt and uncared for", that he spoke very little English and was an "emotionally and culturally alienated" child.

Who is Alan Watkinson?

Alan Watkinson was Mo Farah’s PE teacher who played a crucial role in helping him to acclimatise to his new surroundings. Mr Watkinson helped teach Farah English and also drove him to sporting events as a child.

Mr Watkinson first spotted Farah, swinging from a football goal post. He described Farah as very different from the other kids but  noticed a big difference in him when he hit the athletics track.

Mr Watkinson said: "The only language he seemed to understand was the language of PE and sport.

“I think athletics really helped him. Sport helped him. His English wasn’t the best but playing football and running gave him a level playing field with the other students. Sport gave him confidence as a person.”

As Mo Farah’s confidence increased he confided in Watkinson about his true identity, his background and the work he was being forced to do for the family.

The PE teacher contacted social services and helped Sir Mo to escape from his life as a servant and to be fostered by another Somali family.

Sir Mo said: "I still missed my real family, but from that moment everything got better. I felt like a lot of stuff was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt like me. That’s when Mo came out - the real Mo."

Watkinson helped Mo Farah to apply for British citizenship under the name Mohamed Farah, which was granted in July 2000.

Alan Watkinson was Farah’s best man at his wedding in April 2010, he was also awarded with the Pride of Britain’s teacher of the year award in 2012 and received the award with Mo Farah by his side.

Mo Farah confided in Mr Watkinson after he was trafficked into the UK. (BBC)Mo Farah confided in Mr Watkinson after he was trafficked into the UK. (BBC)
Mo Farah confided in Mr Watkinson after he was trafficked into the UK. (BBC)

Where is Alan Watkinson now?

Alan taught PE and History for 17 years in secondary schools. During this time he was also a Head of Year and a Gifted and Talented Coordinator.

He now works as the partnership director of Sport Impact, where he leads a team of teaching and coaching staff to support schools and their teachers.

They provide high quality competition and physical activity opportunities appropriate for young people in Hounslow and beyond.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.