Who is Watkinson, the PE teacher who saved the Olympic champion Mo Farah’s life?


Farah has said that without Watkinson’s help and mentorship, he wouldn’t have been able to erase the trauma of trafficking or recognised he could run

Shared News: July 13, 2022 5:44:42 pm
“If it wasn’t for [my PE teacher] Alan [Watkinson] who supported me throughout my childhood then maybe I wouldn’t even have the courage to do this.” Mo Farah, who opened up about being illegally trafficked into the UK at the age of nine in a BBC documentary.

Mo Farah has said he is “relieved” that the Home Office will not take action against him.”It makes me relieved,” Mo Farah told BBC Radio 4’s Today when he learned that the Home Office will not take action against him. Legally, the UK government can strip a person of their British nationality if their citizenship was obtained through fraud.

“This is my country. If it wasn’t for [my PE teacher] Alan and the people who supported me throughout my childhood then maybe I wouldn’t even have the courage to do this.”

Who is Watkinson?

Watkinson was Farah’s best man at his wedding. The PE teacher who also taught him English not only spotted Farah’s athletic talent but would also drive him to sporting events.

Farah was 11 and swinging from a football goalpost when Watkinson first saw him. “He was doing his first year at Feltham Community School, he was in one of my PE lessons,” Watkinson had once told Careers in Sport. “He arrived at the school a couple of weeks late because he’d broken his arm playing football in the summer holidays. My first contact with him was in a javelin lesson, which obviously requires stern and strict safety regulations. I had 29 kids sat on the floor and Mo was swinging from a football goal post!”


Watkinson says he saw a boy who was very “different”, didn’t speak “much English,” and very “laid-back”. “At first, it was very difficult to tell. You certainly wouldn’t ever have seen him running hard in those (warm-up activities). He’d do a light jog instead,” Watkinson said.

Mo Farah

FILE – Britain’s Mo Farah, right, leads the pack in the men’s 5000-meter final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012. Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah has disclosed he was brought into Britain illegally from Djibouti under the name of another child. The British athlete made the revelation in a BBC documentary. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

“It wasn’t until he took part in more competitive lessons, working on endurance for example, that he stood out. Then you could tell he was really good. In saying that, you could tell from watching him in the playground playing football that he had a good pair of lungs. He was constantly chasing after the ball when others would punt it and take a breather!”

Farah loved his football as a kid, and it took a lot of persuasion from Watkinson to take athletics seriously. “There was a bit of bribery, too. We’d get the football out after training while football would form part of his warm-up and warm down. I remember also once telling him I’d buy him a kit if he won a race, which he did.” Slowly, Farah himself recognised how much he loved the feeling of winning and how good he was at running. “He soon came around,” Watkinson told career-in-sport.uk.

“He certainly stood up for himself, that’s for sure. 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,” Watkinson said.

On Tuesday, in the excerpts from a BBC documentary to be released today, Farah spoke about how grateful he is to Watkinson. He confided to Watkinson about his true identity, how he was trafficked into the UK, how he was forced to work at the home of the people who got him into the country.

Watkinson, the PE teacher, contacted social services and helped him to be fostered by another Somali family. “I still missed my real family, but from that moment everything got better,” Farah says. ”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 him apply for British citizenship under the name Mohamed Farah, which was granted in July 2000.

Alan was awarded for his teaching work in 2012, winning The Pride of Britain’s ‘Teacher of The Year’ award – and he accepted with Sir Mo Farah by his side.