By Carlos Villegas
Team GB’s basketball star, winner of three major sportsmanship awards because of his ethical behaviour, fair play, and integrity on the court. A Sudanese refugee who has not forgot his roots and works hard to bring education and sports to millions of displaced children in USA , UK and Sudan. He plays for the Chicago Bulls in the USA as well as the UK team.
Luol was only five when he had to flee Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War to go to Egypt with his siblings and was separated from his father for several years. They were reunited when Luol moved to the UK when he was 10 following the decision to grant his father asylum in 1993.
His first impressions of the UK was that the country was “very clean with a lot of glass buildings”. He lived in Brixton at the time which he felt was special. It felt it was like a family – everyone the same – with similar problems. Young migrant men were focused on getting better at sport, particularly basketball. “..we needed to stick closer, work as a team and try harder to improve ourselves”. It was tough though, not speaking the language. Now Luol continues to speak his native Dinka with his family but also speaks Arabic and English and is learning Masai.
Luol believes that it is very important that kids do not forget their roots, their mother tongue and their culture. He felt that his Dinka language and culture gave him and his family a unique identity, strong family values, respect for his parents’ teachings and the desire to work hard and smarter in a different education system.
He became a British citizen in 2006 and says that he didn’t have problems integrating into British society. “I came young and it was easy to learn the language.” His respect for his parents meant that he was always focussed on having the right attitudes, not causing trouble, and being disciplined. He says that the family always thought that they would be successful.
His father remains one of the biggest inspirations of his life. He came from a humble background from a small village and rose to become the Minister of Education and Transportation in Sudan. All of his family are doing well in the UK despite their struggles in his early life.
Luol was drafted into the NBA when he was 19. He currently plays for the Chicago Bulls. Away from the court, he has set up the Luol Deng Foundation to help children in South Sudan, USA and the UK who have not been as fortunate as himself. He believes it’s important not to be self centred and says “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”.