Saturday, October 20, 2012
By NICK FRANCIS
Raining champ ... Hassan, left, with Olympic hero Mo
ARTHUR EDWARDS / THE SUN
OLYMPIC hero Mo Farah is larking about with identical twin brother Hassan — and the way they behave no one would think they have lived apart for 21 years.
They giggle at the same jokes, prod and poke each other — and even mimic Mo’s signature Mobot pose together.
Hassan slaps Mo’s shaven head while the Team GB champ teases his brother about his weight. Their bond is obvious and heartwarming but it is also slightly surprising because the twins were separated aged eight.
They started life together in Mogadishu, Somalia — but in 1991 Mo was brought to England by his father to escape a brutal civil war and Hassan stayed with mum Aisha.
Now, aged 29, their lives could hardly be more different.
Mo is a national treasure, after winning two gold medals at London 2012 in the 5,000m and the 10,000m.
Hassan enjoys a far more modest life. He works as a car mechanic in the town of Hargeisa in northern Somalia, where he lives with his wife and five children.
Hassan shrugs philosophically as he says business is up and down. But he soon breaks into a broad smile as Mo explains how much fun he is having hosting his brother in England.
“It’s a twin thing”, says Mo, with Hassan sat beside him. “We are both big kids really, very playful. We are always laughing, it’s like we have never been apart.”
While Mo has been back to Somalia a few times, this is Hassan’s first time outside Africa. At first he couldn’t speak a word of English — then he met Mo’s seven-year-old daughter Rihanna.
“She’s taught him ‘fat ass, big bum bum’ because she says he’s a fat version of daddy”, Mo laughs.
“Now he can’t stop saying it, he says it everywhere we go. He gets on with her because he’s a big kid himself really.
“It’s great to see her take so well to her uncle, they’re like best mates already. He’s learned a few other phrases like ‘come on then’ and ‘don’t worry about it’. But his favourite is ‘fat ass, big bum bum’.”
Despite the language barrier, interviewing Hassan isn’t a problem. Mo is fluent in Somali and interprets. It’s touching to watch them working as a team.
Mo explains how the boys were separated. He says: “My dad had already lived in Britain and in 1991 he decided to move here to protect us from the civil war.
“My brother wanted to stay — he was closer to my grandmother. We were a tight-knit family and it was a hard decision but my parents decided it was for the best.”
When asked about the day they were separated, Hassan’s grin gives way to a faint frown. He says: “I only vaguely remember. All I can recall is it was night-time and Mo went off in a car.
He's Mo brother ... Mo Farah, left, & Hassan
ARTHUR EDWARDS / THE SUN
“We were very young, I remember playing together at school. We used to run around, we were energetic even back then.
“It was always on the back of my mind that Mo was somewhere else in the world — but I just got on with life.
“When I first heard from him it was a fantastic feeling, he’s my brother, that’s special. “I have a happy life at home but London is astonishing.”
Hassan didn’t miss a single second of the Olympics, watching on TV back home.
He says: “We all saw him win the golds. When he won the second one I nearly died of happiness.”
Since arriving in the UK a week ago, Hassan has been keeping a low profile to avoid attention. He arrived at our interview in sunglasses, despite heavy London rain.
Mo’s wife Tania — mum to Rihanna and their newborn twin girls Aisha and Amani — explains what happened when she got Hassan out of the house to stretch his legs.
She says: “Within minutes we had people coming up to him saying, ‘Well done Mo’ and ‘Brilliant stuff’. I just told him smile and keep walking, it was funny.” She goes on: “They are so similar it’s uncanny. He’s just a chunkier version of Mo. He loves anything chocolate and is mad for Skittles.
“The other day I left a big packet of chocolate biscuits out while Mo and Hassan watched some TV. They finished them in about 20 seconds flat.
“The diet in Somalia is very healthy, they don’t really have sugary stuff or fast foods — but he does love to eat.
“And he’s got a cheeky sense of humour. We were talking about how alike they look and I was saying I can tell them apart easily. He said, ‘You’d mix us up in bed’.”
Mo adds: “I dunno what the future holds but I love having him here. The only thing is when we’re together we’re always being naughty. But it’s good seeing him — because I know what I’ll look like when I put on weight.”
It never used to be so easy to tell who was who. Mo points at a scar on his right arm and says: “I was about four and I was dancing around as usual and knocked over a huge vat of oil. It was how they used to tell us apart.” As they pose on the floor our photographer Arthur Edwards asks them if they wouldn’t mind crossing their legs.
“We can’t,” says Mo. “Don’t know why but neither of us can cross our legs, it’s just another one of our things.”
During the Olympics Mo caused minor controversy when he appeared to deny all knowledge of his twin in Somalia.
He explains: “Someone asked me about him and I just said I don’t know what they’re talking about. If I had said ‘Yes’ they would have gone crazy with questions, I would have been distracted. I just wanted to perform my best at the Olympics. Then, as soon as it was done, I spoke about Hassan. I wasn’t denying his existence — I love him.”
As the interview concludes I ask Hassan one more question — which part of London he is looking forward to seeing most?
To be honest, I already knew what his answer would be. “Fat ass, big bum bum”. Of course.