I will always remember 14 February, 2017 – it’s the date I reached safety in the UK.
I grew up in Sudan, a country in which everyone loves football and all watch the Premier League, and ever since I was a young boy I dreamed of becoming a footballer after completing my education, but I never finished university.
During the Sudanese conflict, my uncle and I were taken by people supporting the government.
They put something over our eyes, hit us and poured scorching water over us. They left us like this for seven days, with no food.
When they finally let us go, they told us we had to come back every three days to sign our names. My friend went to sign one time, but he never came back.
I had to leave – I would have been killed if I had stayed.
I took a small boat to Italy and then a van to Belgium. Once there, someone put me in a lorry and I hid behind some boxes. There were no lights inside and I had nothing to eat.
After eight hours, the lorry stopped somewhere.
I now know that it was Birmingham, but in that moment I didn’t know where I was. When the driver opened the door he was shocked, because he hadn’t expected to find someone inside.
He was afraid and ran away from me, and told me he had to call the police.
Because of the bad experience I’d had with the police in my own country, I was scared, and thought the police here would be the same.
When I got out of the lorry and walked away I saw the UK for the first time. Everything felt upside down.
It was as if I was in another world, because everything was so different — the people, the language, the tall buildings and even the directions of the cars were completely different to that of my country.
All kinds of feelings washed over me at the same time.
I was excited because I was somewhere safe, but at the same time I was scared because I was far away from my home and my people.
There were so many questions in my head: What’s going to happen? How am I going to rebuild my life? Are the people here going to accept me?
I spent two days on the street, trying to find someone to help me.
It was cold and raining, and I needed someone to tell me where I could find something to eat and drink. I was so hungry, but I didn’t know the language, and I didn’t know where to go.
I finally found someone who spoke Arabic and he took me to the British Red Cross.
They showed me how to put through my asylum application and gave me a ticket to go to Croydon for my interview. They also gave me books on becoming a refugee to help me understand what was going to happen.
I was worried because there was a chance they wouldn’t let me stay in the UK, but I was given five years to remain here.
As soon as I heard the news, I took my bag and travelled to Manchester.
I stood in front of Old Trafford stadium and took around 200 photos. I had seen it on TV when I was young and now I was here.
The Red Cross introduced me its Surviving to Thriving project for young refugees and gave me information on how to get an education, find housing and meet friends.
I told them I wanted to be a referee and they set me up on a course with the Football Association in Middlesex.