TV presenter and former international cricketer Freddie Flintoff MBE was amazed when he saw a young teenager in Preston showcasing his cricket skills.
A chat with the boy and his foster parents led to the discovery of a heart-warming story.
While filming his Field of Dreams documentary for the BBC, in which he tries to turn an unlikely group of teenagers into a cricket team, Freddie’s attention was drawn to 16-year-old Adnan who is a refugee from Afghanistan.
Adnan’s foster parents, Barry and Elaine, who foster for Lancashire County Council, said they are both very proud of Adnan’s sporting talent.
Elaine, from Preston, said: “To have impressed Freddie Flintoff, just shows how talented Adnan is. When Adnan arrived with us in March of last year, he went out into our garden and started bowling golf balls in our little driving range. Barry and I were immediately struck by his obvious natural ability. But there’s much more to Adnan than his sporting abilities. His story is astonishing.”
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She continued: “Indeed, Adnan traveled in the back of a lorry from Afghanistan to Calais by foot boat, truck and cars. In Calais he hid in an empty lorry and found his way to Preston. When he arrived here, he cut himself out of the lorry and handed himself in to the police.
“Barry and I have total admiration for Adnan. In making his way to the UK, he has displayed astonishing levels of courage and ingenuity. Since he came to stay with us, he has learned English, made lots of friends at college and of course, demonstrated his fantastic ability to play cricket. Adnan is genuinely gifted and we’re privileged to have got to know him.”
When Adnan arrived in Preston, he was frightened. He said: “I just sat in my bedroom for the first couple of weeks. I couldn’t speak a word of English. Barry said ‘football’ which I understood but I shook my head. Barry then said ‘cricket’, and I suddenly thought, he’s talking my language.
“I went into the garden and started bowling golf balls in the golf driving net. I think Elaine and Barry were both impressed with my technique and how quickly I could bowl the ball. When I arrived in the UK, I hadn’t heard of Freddie Flintoff. I definitely know who he is now. He’s a legend, for me to be involved in his television program is a great opportunity.
“Freddie has offered me a lot of coaching and encouragement, and I really hope I can continue to improve as a cricketer. I will continue to work hard and you never know, I might just get somewhere.
“If I achieve just a fraction of what Freddie has achieved in the game, I will be extremely proud. I’d like to thank Freddie, Elaine and Barry, and the many other people here in Preston, for their love, help and support.”
Elaine added: “We only know a tiny amount about the trauma Adnan has experienced in Afghanistan and during his dangerous journey to the UK. Despite all of that, over the past 16 months, Barry and I have watched Adnan learn English, flourish as a cricketer and develop into a fine young man.”
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County Councilor Cosima Towneley, Lancashire’s cabinet member for children and families, said: “There’s no doubt that Adnan is a very talented cricketer and it was lovely to see Freddie Flintoff taking such great interest in him.
“Adnan has faced extraordinary challenges in his young life, and we are delighted he found a safe, secure and happy home with Elaine and Barry through the Lancashire Fostering Service.
“Like all our foster carers, Elaine and Barry are part of a very special breed by opening their home and lives to children and youngsters like Adnan, they open a world of opportunity.
“We’re always keen to hear from people who are interested in fostering. There’s no typical foster carer and our carers are different ages and come from many different backgrounds. The most important thing is what you can offer to a child or young person at a pivotal moment in their life. If you think this could be you, please contact Lancashire Foster Care on the details below.”
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