Lamin Faal HERO

Seaford coach crowned BBC Unsung Hero

Lamin Faal wins South East BBC SPOTY Unsung Hero award

Seaford Town football coach, Lamin Faal has been named as the winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) Unsung Hero award for the South East region.

For Lamin, 50, football has always been part of his life since he first put on a pair of goalkeeping gloves back in Gambia.

Back in Gambia, I used to play semi-professionally in goal, so when I moved over to Seaford, I was really keen to keep that up,” said Lamin.

“For a while I did just that, but then an injury to my hand meant that, unfortunately, I had to give it up.

“But that meant I was able to start using my time to get involved in coaching and start to give something back.

“Coaching was always something I’d been considering doing when I stopped playing, because I just really liked the idea of passing on my knowledge and experience to younger players, to help them in any way I could.”

Joining the coaching team at Seaford, an England Football Accredited club, Lamin was quick to make an impact, playing a pivotal role in the coaching of the clubs’ inclusive team, giving players with a disability the chance to play, who otherwise might have been unable to.

“To work with these children is just so rewarding,” said Lamin, “to know that you’re helping them play football and enjoy football, means so much to me.

“It’s also just great to see their faces when they arrive and see all their friends and get to catch up with them.”

Coaching an adult side, along with Seaford’s Under-16s and Under-12s has seen Lamin create countless memories with his players.

“The best memories have definitely come from last season, when our adult team won two trophies in the Sussex Disability Football League,” he said.

“The players spend all season working towards those days, so it meant a lot to see them celebrate together at the end.”

For Lamin, his life is a constant balancing act between football and working at the Abundant Grace nursing home, also in Seaford.

“Through my work, I interact with adults with learning disabilities every day, and I was able to bring that experience to my coaching with the inclusive team,” said Lamin.

“In both cases the key to working with them is patience and understanding the need to listen, and remember that it’s not about you the coach, it’s about them and giving them the best experience possible.”

In all the time that Lamin has been volunteering with Seaford, he never sought any recognition or reward, yet not everyone thought that his hard work and dedication should go unnoticed.

“I remember when we heard about the BBC Sports Personality Unsung Hero Award, my wife told me that she was going to put my name forward for it.

“Of course, I didn’t think anything at all would come from it, but then one morning the phone rang, and they said they were calling from the BBC.

“I just thought that it was some kind of prank or a wind-up, but no they were from the BBC, and they wanted to come down and film a video on me and Seaford, because I’d be nominated.

“I still didn’t really believe it until the film crew arrived at our training session!

“To be honest, you work with these kids because you love it and you want to see them have success, not because you’re looking for any reward or recognition.”

Lamin team photo

Lamin with his Seaford Town inclusive team at the Sussex Disability Football League day at Culver Road

The arrival of the film crew in Seaford was naturally a cause for great excitement for the club, and especially the players.

“When all the news cameras came down, they all wanted to show their skills to the camera and make sure they got on the telly!

“So, when it was aired, I was getting texts and calls from all of them saying thank you to me.

“And after it aired, because Seaford is not a big place, I was getting people recognising me in the shops as the bloke off the telly!

“It was definitely quite an overwhelming experience that’s for sure.”

Lamin’s time in front of the camera’s wasn’t over just yet though, with the next stop being the SPOTY Awards ceremony in Salford, Manchester.

“That whole night was just an unbelievable experience,” said Lamin.

“To be with all those famous people who you didn’t think in a million years that you'd be sitting with, just didn’t seem real to me, it was like being in a movie.”

And as for who Lamin was most excited to meet?

“For me, and my wife especially, I think it was John Barnes, because she’s a big Liverpool fan, and so are a lot of my friends, so they all wanted me to get that picture for them!

“It was also great to meet and chat with the other regional winners and hear their stories, because even though I didn’t win the national award, it didn’t matter who won on the night, we were all winners.”

Since the big night back in December, for Lamin and the rest of Seaford Town, the impact is still being felt.

“With the inclusive team now being much more widely known it’s brought a lot more attention to what we’re doing, and that’s even led to the care home I work at sponsoring the team, which the kids are really excited about because it means new kit!

“But even just in Seaford people are now wanting to get involved and help at the club and donate to help the teams, and the manager at the club was thanking me the other day, I had to say no, no, no, it’s all down to my wife for putting me forward, nothing to do with me!”

Going forward though, and for Lamin, he’s seeing his future very much in Seaford and continuing doing what he loves.

“The club has been great in supporting me ever since I started coaching here, and they’re even helping me to do my Level 2, which just means so much to me,” he said.

So, what would Lamin’s message be to anyone thinking about volunteering and helping out at their local club?

“I would say to them to just do it, and if you come with an open heart and dedicate your time to these kids and help bring football to them, then I promise you that you won’t regret it!”

For more information about disability football please contact:

T: 01903 766855