A young man from Somalia who has made Sheffield his home is to address some of the biggest names in football later this week.
Abdi Hussein, aged 23, was born in Somaliland but sought refuge in the UK when civil war ripped his country apart.
He arrived in Sheffield aged nine and quickly made his mark on the football pitch.
Abdi attracted the interest of Sheffield United but when his dream didn’t work out he started playing with friends.
The talented footballer, who earned the nickname ‘Del Piero’ afer his silky skills became apparent, played in several Football Unites Racism Divides tournaments.
He also became a Millennium Volunteer at FURD, acting as assistant manager of the Surud United U18 team.
Abdi now voluntarily coaches and manages the under 18s while his friends run the under 15s. The Surud United adult team have been invited to take part in an international tournament to be held this summer in Toronto, Canada, and are busy raising the funds to compete.
Football Unites Racism Divides picked Abdi as its Community Champion to represent England at the Football Without Frontiers conference in Belfast on Friday, March 7.
The university student and Football Unites trustee will explain to ex-England manager Graham Taylor, former Northern Ireland boss Bryan Hamilton, Wales legend Ian Rush, ex-Scotland manager Craig Brown and the Republic of Ireland’s Brian Kerr why football works as a tool for tackling racism and sectarianism.
Football Without Frontiers is a UK and Ireland-wide body which combines the efforts of organisations committed to using football as a hook to tackle racism.
The conference will include representatives from Kick it Out, Football Unites Racism Divides, Sport Against Racism Ireland and Football for All (Scotland).
Radio 1 DJ Colin Murray and Patrick Gasser from UEFA are among the guest speakers.
Abdi, who lives in Broomhall and is studying Construction Management at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “I’m honoured to be asked to speak at such an important conference and I’m very much looking forward to it.
“I am looking forward to talking about my involvement with Football Unites Racism Divides and meeting some of my heroes.”
Graham Taylor, former England manager, added: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of the game and the Football Without Frontiers conference is a great opportunity to shine the media spotlight on volunteers who are making a meaningful difference in the community.
“I believe we all have a responsibility to challenge racism and sectarianism.”