Sir Mo Farah has revealed that he was illegally trafficked into Britain under the name of another child as a nine-year-old and forced into domestic servitude.
The four-time Olympic champion had previously claimed he had left Somalia aged eight to join his father, after his parents made the agonising decision to send three of their six children to London for the chance of a better life.
However in a new documentary, The Real Mo Farah, to be broadcast by the BBC on Wednesday, the 39-year-old says that in fact he was trafficked to London by a stranger under an assumed name after escaping war in Somalia.
“Most people know me as Mo Farah, but it’s not my name or it’s not the reality,” he says. “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.”
When he arrived in Britain Farah claimed he lived with a married couple who treated him badly. His PE teacher at school, Alan Watkinson, rescued him and also helped him to apply for British citizenship using his assumed name.
In the documentary, the athlete also admits that 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 said he and his twin, Hassan, were sent by their mother to live with an uncle in neighbouring Djibouti for their own safety. Farah said he recalled a woman visiting the house several times to observe him. He was told that she would be taking him to Europe to live with relatives.
He was also informed that he would be renamed Mohamed. “As a kid, you never think beyond what you’ve been told,” he says in the documentary.
However Farah says that when he arrived in the UK he faced a very different 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.
Farah said his children have motivated him to be truthful about his past. “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.
Farah’s wife, Tania, said in the year leading up to their 2010 wedding she realised “there was lots of missing pieces to his story” but she eventually “wore him down with the questioning” and he told the truth.
In the documentary, Farah admits to being worried about his immigration status. However, the Home Office confirmed on Monday night that he would not face any repercussions. “No action whatsoever will be taken against Sir Mo and to suggest otherwise is wrong,” a spokesperson said.
The documentary ends with Farah speaking to the real Mohamed Farah, whose identity he took entering the UK, before adding Farah will continue to go by the name he was given when he entered the UK.