Today, Bayan Mahmud plays for Boca Juniors representing Argentina. But he arrived in Argentina three years ago as a stowed away escaping from a tribal war in his native Country Ghana, a conflict that claimed the lives of both his parents in 2005.
He was born amidst poverty, turmoil, personal tragedy and grew up in an orphanage in northern Ghana between the Mamprusis and the Kusasis tribes. In just 18 years he’s already experience adversity more than most people would in an entire lifetime.
Due to resurgence of ethnic conflict in his home town in 2010, Bayan escape to Cape Coast and sneaked into a cargo container under cover of darkness with his brother Muntala. The then 15-year-old stowaway had no clue where it was headed, but he was petrified and just wanted to get as far away as possible from Ghana.
He certainly got his wish – disembarking across the Atlantic Ocean in Argentina after a three week journey. But he also ended up with a whole lot of new goals – literally – and a massive change in fortune, thanks to his skill at football in a land where the game is almost a religion.
Boca Juniors has helped him get back in touch with his brother, Muntala, through social media.
Bayan speaking to the Telegraph from the youth squad’s in Buenos Aires apartment, he said “"I always pray for them and I know my parents would have been very proud of me.”
Bayan's story is an inspiration on many levels. Not only has he overcome misfortune and discrimination, but he has also shown how integration can work. And his story underlines the importance of sport and education for all children, including the forcibly displaced.
"To all my people all over the world hungry for success, dream big, the sky is not your limit, you can be the best, if you persevere in the midst of adversity." Alaba Saliu