A refugee who lived with Gary Lineker at his home in Surrey has hailed the former footballer as a ‘defender of humanity.’
Rasheed Baluch spent 20 days living with the Match of the Day presenter in 2020. Lineker had been introduced to Baluch through the charity Refugees At Home, and put up the law student at his £4million home.
He had fled the mountainous Balochistan region between Pakistan and Iran, where his wife still lives. Speaking to the Sunday Mirror about his experience living with Lineker, Rasheed revealed that his host covered all his travel costs and called the former England international a “caring and human loving man”.
He said: “He is friendly and open-minded. He loved to listen to me when I shared my story about the situation in my country and the plight of my people.
“Gary was comfortable with my company and conversation. That’s why he listened to me attentively.
“Although Gary is a star, he leads a simple life. He is never proud of his status. He is a very sympathetic, caring and human loving man.
“He gave me an Oyster card which contained £100 top-up for my transport to university.”
Lineker has been at the centre of a controversial row with the BBC and government because of comments he made regarding Suella Braverman’s new policy on small boat Channel crossings.
The Home Secretary announced that under the policy, anyone arriving in the country on a small boat across the Channel would not be allowed to stay in the UK.
Lineker compared this policy to “Germany in the 30s,” which the BBC believed breached impartiality guidelines, and lead to his temporary removal from Match of the Day, which in itself prompted a mass walkout of other football pundits and journalists at the corporation.
Baluch said the UK should be proud of Lineker for speaking out against the government, and praised him for coming forward to “defend humanity.”
He said: “He has been given the right of freedom, right of thought and expression.
“So if the institutions react so negatively against the statement of Gary, it is undemocratic and unfair.
“Gary has come forward to defend humanity. It should be a point of pride for the British public.”
Reacting to Baluch’s comments, Lineker tweeted: “Ah Rasheed, how sweet of you.”
After Baluch’s time with Lineker, he sent a touching letter to his former host, which Lineker then shared on Twitter.
Baluch wrote: “I can never forget your hospitality, love and company that you and your lovely respectful children gave to me.”
In a tweet, Lineker said the refugee had given him and his sons a “different perspective on life,” before thanking Refugees at Home and saying he would “definitely host again.”
The 62-year-old did just this, and took in another refugee, a young Turk now at university, for a month in 2021.
Lineker made his return to BBC football coverage on Saturday evening as he presented coverage of the FA Cup quarter final between Manchester City and Burnley.
He said in the studio: “Great to be here.”
Pundit Alan Shearer then told him: “I wanted to say how upset we were that audiences missed out on last weekend. It’s good to be talking football again.”