From fleeing home to flying high: Refugee stands up to adversity through Rugby League
At the age of just 11, Said Jamal was forced to flee his home country of Afghanistan after his father was killed by Taliban forces.
Unable to speak English and facing all the challenges that come with moving to a new foreign land, he settled in Rotherham with his mother and siblings where he still lives today.
Despite facing such difficult times in his young life, Said refused to be brought down by the adversity which had struck his family and excelled in the UK, learning to speak fluent English and discovering a passion for rugby league.
Earlier this month, the now 15-year-old was presented with the ‘Overcoming Adversity Award’, at the Sheffield Celebration of Sport dinner, after signing for Castleford Tigers on a Scholarship scheme.
His inspirational story earned him 70 per cent of the votes in the category and a prestigious award, presented to him by BBC Sports presenter Tanya Arnold.
“I was not expecting to win,” the humble teen told the Asian Express. “I am very happy to receive the award but it is the support I have received from Dearne Valley, Castleford and my school that means the most to me.”
Said’s first foray into the world of rugby league came at Clifton Community School, where he was spotted by Sheffield Rugby League stalwart Mitch Stringer.
He went on to join Dearne Valley Bulldogs in the Yorkshire Junior League before signing for Castleford Tigers after some impressive performances.
Said became captain of his team within a year of joining the club and now has dreams of becoming a professional Rugby League player for the Tigers.
“I'm in my second year at Castleford now and I love it here,” he said.
“It's my ambition to play Super League for them one day. That would be a dream come true for me.
“It's really nice to have been recognised but the media attention is a little weird, it's so great to receive everyone's support though.”
This latest award is not the first time Said has been recognised for his inspirational story.
Earlier this year, he was invited to be a VIP at the Super League Grand Final between Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves at Old Trafford. He was then selected to pass over the match ball to referee Robert Hicks ahead of kick off in his Dearne Valley strip.