Two local champions of grassroots sport - England’s first hijab-wearing boxing coach and a blind fundraising runner - have been named as Hometown Heroes, inspiring local champions of community sport celebrated by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Haseebah Abdullah coaches at Windmill Boxing Gym in Smethwick. Haseebah has been key in promoting and developing female participation in boxing in her community, having also played a huge role in changing official dress code rules to allow women to wear a headscarf and full-length clothing. Known for making others feel welcome and comfortable, Haseebah has seen the confidence of the club members soar and membership numbers increase.
“It feels absolutely amazing to have been selected as a Hometown Hero. My aim has always been to provide a service, a home, a safe haven and a platform for equality in my sport and community.
“I’ve fought really hard to earn my place as a boxing coach, challenging stereotypes and overcoming many barriers. Receiving this recognition proves to me that we should always be the change we wish to see! As a coach I will continue to dedicate my time to create positive noise, break down barriers, accommodate different needs and be a driving force for equality and participation.”
Sandwell’s second Hometown Hero is Black Country legend Dave Heeley OBE, or ‘Blind Dave’ as he is more commonly known. Dave lost his sight at a young age but never let this hold him back. One of his greatest achievements was becoming the first blind man to run seven marathons on seven continents in just seven days, raising staggering amounts of money for charity in 2008. Since then, Dave’s determination to raise money via gruelling challenges has never wavered. In 2011, Dave covered 1,000 miles, conquering 10 marathons and 750 miles of tandem cycling in just 10 days, travelling from John O'Groats to Land's End. In 2015, Dave persevered in the Marathon des Sables - known as the toughest race on the planet, it consists of six days across the Sahara Desert, running over 160 miles. Still a local legend at heart, Dave has inspired hundreds of people, many in similar positions to him, to take up running and fitness, and often giving up his time to help, encourage and support others on their own journeys.
“I’m so pleased and proud – I’m a Black Country boy, and to have the Commonwealth Games here is amazing. It’s absolutely brilliant to have the opportunity to represent my home borough and be a part of this little bit of history.”
The Hometown Heroes campaign by Birmingham 2022 celebrates and recognises the diversity of the region by shining a spotlight on those that go above and beyond to develop sport, encourage participation and promote physical and mental wellbeing in their community.
To celebrate their inclusion, each Hometown Hero will be profiled on Birmingham 2022’s website and social media channels over the coming weeks and will each receive a special glass award to mark their achievement.
Sandwell Council deputy leader Councillor Maria Crompton said:
“I’m so proud of our Hometown Heroes. Haseebah and Dave for me sum up the spirit of Sandwell: that determination to overcome challenges and build on the diversity of our community to create a better place to live.”
Ian Reid, CEO of Birmingham 2022, said:
“I’m in awe of our Hometown Heroes. Their generosity, whether that’s giving up their time or just being a listening ear, is inspiring. Birmingham 2022 promises to be the Games for Everyone, and while it’ll be an event that brings together the best athletes in the world, we are also aiming to inspire the next generation. Shining the spotlight on these devoted individuals will no doubt encourage participation in sport and physical activity across the West Midlands.”
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from 28 July until 8 August 2022. The Games is already proving to be a catalyst for transformation across the West Midlands, attracting new investment and funding, creating jobs and apprenticeships for local people and new opportunities for local businesses, as well as accelerating projects that will ensure the region is ready to host a fantastic sports and cultural celebration.???
If you want to be part of history, you can apply to be one of the 13,000 spirited, dedicated and dynamic volunteers required to be the heartbeat of the Commonwealth Games. Volunteering at Birmingham 2022 is an opportunity to give something back, inspire a generation and be a part of something special - like our Hometown Heroes do every day. Find out more at www.birmingham2022.com/volunteering