Ghanim Al Muftah, a young disability activist, who has over three million followers on social media, was one of the hosts on Sunday night at the opening ceremony of the Fifa World Cup 2022 in Doha, which was watched by millions around the world.
But who is Ghanim Al Muftah?
Prior to Ghanim’s and his twin brother’s birth, Ghanim was diagnosed with a rare condition known as Caudal Regression Syndrome (CDS), a congenital disorder in which the fetal development of the lower body is abnormal.
Many people had suggested his mother abort him – as they believed it would save him and his mother from the suffering that this disability would bring upon them. However, Ghanim’s parents decided to go ahead with the pregnancy, and Ghanim was born on May 5, 2002, along with his twin brother Ahmad.
Ghanim was born without the lower half of the body, but his parents decided to help him at all times, “I will be his left leg and you will be his right leg” they told each other.
Since then, Ghanim has astounded those around him with his unbeatable spirit.
Steps without feet but traces – TED Talk by Ghanim Al Muftah
As a boy, he struggled to find schools that would accept him because of his disability.
But the determined youngster refused to let his condition stunt his thirst for life and decided to take on a range of sports – tackling everything from scuba diving, rock climbing, football, ice hockey and swimming, to workouts in the gym and archery.
In 2017, Ghanim completed the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah by crawling around the Ka’abah – the building at the center of Islam’s most important mosque, the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca in Saudi Arabia – on his hands instead of in a wheelchair.
Two years later, the inspirational teenager completed one of his most daunting physical challenges yet, climbing the 9,827ft tall Jebel Shams mountain, one of the highest in the Arabian Peninsula.
As well as his physical exploits, Ghanim has also spearheaded his own charity to help other disabled children.
Supported by his family, he founded the Ghanim al-Muftah Association for Wheelchairs from his home.
‘I care about others – I consider it a humanitarian and moral duty,’ he said as a 13-year-old when speaking to the Paralympics ahead of the Paralympic World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar in 2015.
In the same year, he was chosen as the ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ of Reach Out To Asia’s (ROTA) ‘Empowering Palestinian Refugee Children and Youth through Sports in Lebanon’.
The teenager visited a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Nahr El Bared, Lebanon, where he launched a new sports center to help 5,000 children.
He and his parents also started the ‘Be Positive Project’ to help coach disabled children.
The young activist also has ambitions of one day becoming a Paralympian, and has met Paralympic Skiing champion Tyler Walker, who flew out to Qatar several times to show Ghanim that ‘there are people who are world champions with my disability.
His sporting exploits, alongside his charity work and social media following, led to the 20-year-old being selected as an official ‘ambassador’ of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – rubbing shoulders with the likes of England legend, David Beckham.
He is also known for his motivational speeches and social media presence, featuring on TEDxQatarUniversity in 2018, aged 16, to talk about his condition, caudal regression syndrome.
The young man, who has more than 3.4 million followers on Instagram, was also named ‘Ambassador of Peace’ by H.H the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, in 2014. He is currently studying politics at Loughborough University in UK.
Read more about Ghanim Al Muftah and his achievements here