He is the disabled Qatari YouTube sensation who had a starring role alongside Hollywood A-lister Morgan Freeman at the World Cup’s opening ceremony.
But for inspirational Ghanim Al Muftah, it was a moment that may never have happened were it not for a fateful decision taken by his parents more than two decades ago.
The 20-year-old has caudal regression syndrome (CRS), an extremely rare genetic condition which meant he was born without the lower half of his body.
When news of his condition was broken to his parents, Mohammed Al Muftah and Eman Ahmad, they faced a hellish decision: go ahead with the pregnancy and face all the uncertain surroundings of their son’s condition or to have an abortion.
The pair went through with the pregnancy and Ghanim was born on May 5, 2002, along with his twin brother Ahmad.
Since then, remarkable Ghanim has astounded those around him, scaling one of the Gulf’s tallest mountains on his hands, becoming a celebrated disabilities campaigner and amassing an army of more than three million fans on social media.
And on Sunday, with the eyes of the globe firmly on him and Morgan Freeman, Ghanim used his platform to speak about finding ‘beauty in our differences’ and he championed unity and diversity.
Ghanim Al Muftah, 20, caudal regression syndrome (CRS), an extremely rare genetic condition which meant he was born without the lower half of his body. But in 2019, he climbed the 9,827ft tall Jebel Shams mountain (pictured).
Ghanim is also an ambassador at the Fifa World Cup in Qatar and on Sunday he took to the stage with Hollywood star, Morgan Freeman for the games’ opening ceremony (pictured)
During the ceremony, the 20-year-old disability campaigner spoke to the actor of seeing the ‘beauty in our differences’
Ghanim has caudal regression syndrome (CRS), an extremely rare genetic condition which meant he was born without the lower half of his body
But in spite of his condition, it hasn’t stopped the inspirational 20-year-old from taking on sports, including swimming (pictured), scuba diving, rock climbing and ice hockey
‘We were raised to believe that we were scattered on this Earth as nations and tribes so we could learn from each other and find beauty in our differences,’ the beaming 20-year-old told the 85-year-old during Sunday’s World Cup spectacle.
Nicknamed the ‘Qatari miracle boy’, Ghanim’s condition affects about one in 100,000 children and was given 15 years to live by his doctors when he was born.
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.
Nicknamed the ‘Qatari miracle boy’, Ghanim’s condition affects about one in 100,000 children and was given 15 years to live by his doctors when he was born
He is a twin with his brother Ahmed not having any disability. The pair are pictured together as children
Cheeky couple: Ghanim and Ahmed were inseparable as children and often enjoyed playfighting, mucking around and pulling silly faces
But school was not always easy, with Ghanim describing how it was tough to find a place that could accept him because of his disability. He is pictured with his twin Ahmed as a teenager
Despite is disability, Ghanim has gone one to enjoy playing a number of sports and has even set up his own charity to help buy wheelchairs for other needy children
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 centre 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 become 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’.
Disabled Qatari World Cup opening ceremony star talks about his life
The determined 20-year-old has even qualified as a scuba diver in a custom-built suit (pictured).
More recently he and Ahmed moved to the UK where Ghanim is studying politics at Loughborough University
Tyler, who was born with lumbar sacral agenesis, a condition that resulted in his spine missing after the first vertebra and is a two-time silver medalist, also introduced Ghanim to ice hockey.
Most recently, Ghanim has taken to the skies in a parascender and hopes to one day bag his own pilot’s license.
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.
As well as aiming to break down barriers still facing disabled people, Ghanim also has lofty ambitions of one day becoming a diplomat.
He flew across from Qatar to the UK to study politics at Loughborough University, in Leicestershire, where he has become a popular figure on the campus, skating between seminars and lectures on his skateboard.
And he spoken out about his future ambitions on the university’s website, saying: ‘Today, many of the world’s one billion disabled women and men still struggle to overcome barriers blocking their human rights and inclusion in societies.
‘Despite existing legal frameworks at the international, national and local levels, millions of disabled people remain marginalized, lacking access to work, fair treatment and basic services such as health care and education.
‘In my future I pledge to always support efforts to raise awareness and advocate for the importance of including a disability perspective in the political discussions.
‘I hope to help raise public awareness on disability rights; foster respect for disabled persons and though the process promotes more inclusive and tolerant societies.’
US actor Morgan Freeman, left, sits on the stage next to FIFA World Cup Ambassador Ghanim Al Muftah, at the opening ceremony of the World Cup on Sunday 20 November 2022
US actor Morgan Freeman, left, talks with FIFA World Cup Ambassador Ghanim Al Muftah, at the opening ceremony of the World Cup
The Qatar World Cup started on 20 November 2022 with an opening Qatar v Ecuador fixture
Speaking of his role at the World Cup, the 20-year-old added: ‘Within my capacities as a [Fifa World Cup] ambassador, I want to send a message of hope, inclusivity, peace, and unity for humanity.’
During his moment in the spotlight at the World Cup’s opening, Ghanim spoke alongside Mr Freeman, telling the actor ‘everyone is welcome’ at the Qatar games and that it was an ‘invitation for the whole world’.
‘We were raised to believe that we were scattered on this Earth as nations and tribes so we could learn from each other and find beauty in our differences,’ he said.
‘I can see it,’ replied the Shawshank Redemption star. ‘What unites us here in this moment is so much greater than what divides us. How can we make it last longer than just today?’
‘With tolerance and perspective,’ said Ghanim. ‘We can live together under one big home… wherever it is built, that is home. And when we call you here, we welcome you into our home.’
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 3.4million followers on Instagram, was also named ‘Ambassador of Peace’ by H.H the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, in 2014.