Question time-refugee athlete Farzad shares life lessons with students
31st October 2022
A refugee from Afghanistan who dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal has shared his life and sporting stories with a group of Mancunian students.
His country’s flag bearer at Tokyo 2020, Farzad Mansouri and his family fled from the Taliban-controlled country soon after returning home from the Games. Farzad arrived in Manchester earlier this year after spending eight months in a refugee camp in Abu Dhabi.
Since May, the 20-year-old has trained alongside GB Taekwondo athletes at the National Taekwondo Centre while he seeks asylum.
His progress, including a gold medal at the European Clubs’ Championship and most recent victory at the Belgrade Open in Serbia has resulted in his selection as a refugee athlete to next month’s World Championships in Mexico-his first at senior level.
Away from the mats, Farzad is enjoying his new surroundings. With his ever-improving mastery of English, Farzad held a question-and-answer session with students from Manchester’s Communication Academy in Harpurhey during the recent World Grand Prix held at the City’s Regional Arena.
He was also introduced to Dr Chungwon Choue, President of World Taekwondo since 2004 and instrumental in founding the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation.
The sport’s worldwide governing body has also provided funding additional to a solidarity grant from the International Olympic Committee helping Farzad travel to key competitions to boost his chances of collecting ranking points towards Olympic qualification.
Further help has come from the London-based immigration law specialists, Laura Devine Solicitors, who have committed initially to providing pro-bono expert advice.
Manchester Communication Academy is a mixed, non-selective school serving local children including a number, like Mansouri, seeking a fresh start in a new country.
“It was very good for me to meet some of these refugee students and be able to pass on information,” he said.
“I know how hard it can be for refugees. it was the same for me when I left Afghanistan to go to the refugee camp in Abu Dhabi.
“And while I am grateful for the chance to restart my career, I miss my family a lot. Hopefully, I will go and meet them as soon as possible.”
Farzad explained how maths and English were his favourite subjects but there was no opportunity at school to take up taekwondo.
“I was due to take an exam to go to university,” he added. “But I couldn’t do it in the end because of a competition in India.”
“The students asked me what my biggest achievement in taekwondo is. Hopefully, that is still to come,” he smiled.