MADRID (AP) – The Syrian refugee who was tripped at a border hotspot by a Hungarian journalist in an incident that generated global outrage arrived in Madrid early Thursday with hopes of rebuilding his career and giving his family a new life.
Osama Abdul Mohsen stepped out of a train just a few minutes past midnight (2200 GMT) after a trip of more than 20 hours from Germany to Spain, then quickly began thanking everyone for giving him the opportunity for a fresh start.
"Thank you all," Mohsen said, slowly, in broken English. "This is very, very important for my life. Thank you very much."
His 7-year-old son, Zaid, looked tired but still had the strength to open a broad smile and declare his love for soccer and his greatest idol: "Cristiano Ronaldo."
Mohsen was captured on video carrying Zaid when camerawoman Petra Laszlo tripped him and sent him tumbling to the ground in a field full of other migrants running from authorities near the Hungarian village of Roszke.
"Now I feel that I am (flying) in the sky," he told the several dozen journalists who waited for him as he arrived from Barcelona with Zaid and another son. "I am very happy."
After the incident in Hungary, Mohsen ended up in Germany, where media reports revealed he had been a soccer coach in Syria. That prompted a Spanish soccer academy to offer to rebuild his life. The CENAFE school in the suburb off Getafe helped bring Mohsen to Spain and will give him a job and a place to live near its training facility.
"Hopefully this will serve as an example to the rest of Europe," said school president Miguel Galan. "We need to help these people."
Galan will now try to bring Mohsen's wife and his other two children from a refugee camp in Turkey. Getafe authorities will also work to get the family legalized in Spain as soon as possible so Mohsen can start working as a coach. He and his family will also have to learn Spanish.
"The first thing is to get him settled," said Luis Miguel Pedraza, of the CENAFE school. "First we're giving him a hand as a humanitarian gesture. Later we'll look for something. He's interested in our school."
Mohsen said he already knows one of the first things he wants to do with his sons in Spain: Go to a Real Madrid game.
Galan said the club has already made an invitation to have them at the Santiago Bernabeu sometime soon.
Spain last week agreed to take 17,680 refugees from Syria and other countries under a plan set up by the European Commission.
Laszlo was fired from her job at the right-wing N1TV online channel after footage was aired of her tripping Mohsen and kicking other migrants.