Sir Mo Farah has revealed in a BBC documentary that he was illegally brought into the UK under the name of another child.
The four-time Olympic champion said “the truth is I am not who you think I am”, adding that he must tell his real story “whatever it takes” in the documentary titled The real Mo Farah†
The father of four, 39, said: “Most people know me as Mo Farah, but it’s not my name or it’s not the reality.
“The real story is that I was born in Somaliland, north of Somalia, as Hussein Abdi Kahin. Despite what I have said in the past, my parents have never lived in the UK.
“When I was four my father was killed in the civil war, you know we were torn apart as a family.
“I was separated from my mother and I was illegally brought into the UK under the name of another child named Mohamed Farah.”
Farah, who became the first British track and field athlete to win four Olympic gold medals, said his children have motivated him to be honest 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 myself and tell what really happened ,” he said.
“I kept it for so long, it was hard because you don’t want to face it and often my kids ask, ‘Dad, how come?’ And you always have an answer to everything, but you don’t have an answer to that.
“That’s the main reason for telling my story, because I want to feel normal and… not feel like you’re holding onto anything.”
Farah’s wife Tania Nell said in the year leading up to their 2010 wedding that she realized “there were a lot of missing pieces to his story,” but in the end “dragged him off with the interrogation” and told the truth.
During the documentary, Farah said he thought he was going to Europe to live with relatives and recalled having to pass a British passport control under the guise of Mohamed at the age of nine.
He said: “I had all the contact details of my relative and once we got to her house the lady took it from me and right in front of me she tore them open and put it in the bin and in that moment I knew I was in the problems.”
The athlete traveled back to his childhood home in Hounslow and recalled “no great memories” where he was not treated as part of the family.
He said, “If I wanted food in my mouth, my job was to take care of those kids, shower them, cook for them, clean for them, and she said, ‘If you ever see your family again “If you want to see, don’t say anything. If you say something, they’ll take you.”
“So she said to you don’t talk about anything or I’d be in big trouble and I think the only thing I could do, within my control, was run from this, get out and run.”
Farah eventually told the truth to his PE teacher, Alan Watkinson, and moved in with his friend’s mother, Kinsi, who “took really good care of him” and he ended up staying for seven years.
It was Watkinson who applied for Farah’s British citizenship, which he described as a “long process” and on July 25, 2000, Farah was recognized as a British citizen.
Farah, who called his son Hussein by his real name, said: “I often think about that other Mohamed Farah, the boy whose place I took on that plane and I really hope he’s okay.
“Wherever he is, I carry his name and that could be a problem for me and my family right now.
“The most important thing for me is to just be able to say, ‘Look, this is what happened,’ and just be honest, really.”
In the documentary, a lawyer tells Farah that although he was smuggled into the country as a small child and he has told the relevant authorities the truth, there is still a “real risk” that his British nationality could be taken away because it was obtained by misrepresentations.
But it is clear that the Interior Ministry will not take any action against Farah and that he will not be deprived of his citizenship.
The department’s guidelines make clear that it assumes that a child is not complicit in obtaining citizenship through deception, stating: “If the person was a child at the time the fraud, misrepresentation or concealment of material facts was committed (which led to citizenship), The practitioner must assume that he is not complicit in any cheating by his parent or guardian.”
Speaking to his wife, Farah said, “I don’t think I was ever willing to say anything, not because you want to lie, but because you’re protecting yourself.
†[I] think it’s only later that you realize it’s okay to get things out and say how it happened.
“But in this I think you know I was traded and that’s what it feels like.”
The documentary ends with Farah speaking to the real Mohamed Farah, whose identity he assumed when he entered the UK, before adding that the athlete will continue to go by the name he was given when he entered the UK.
The real Mo Farah airs at 6pm on BBC iPlayer and at 9pm on BBC One on 13th July.