Deportation row player to appeal to interior minister
( AFP ) - Watford footballer Al Bangura has made a direct appeal to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to overturn a decision to deport him to his native Sierra Leone, where he says his life is at risk.
"I am praying every night that the home secretary will review this and allow me to stay because inside of me, I know I'm supposed to be here," the 19-year-old told the second-tier English Championship side's website.
The midfielder learnt on Monday that an asylum and immigration tribunal rejected his application to stay in Britain, prompting criticism from Hornets manager Aidy Boothroyd and a campaign to reverse the ruling.
Bangura, who recently became a father for the first time, appealed for commonsense to prevail: "I know that these people are doing their jobs, but they need to look at my situation individually.
"I'm doing everything right. I'm here, I have my family and my job -- I'm not doing anyone any harm. I'm happy to be here, I see this as my home, my country."
The footballer is being supported by the club and local lawmaker Claire Ward, who has vowed to take up the case personally with Immigration Minister Liam Byrne to urge him to use his discretionary powers.
Watford's honorary life president, the rock star Elton John, is also supporting Bangura's appeal with the Professional Footballers' Association and former home secretary David Blunkett, the club said.
A protest is planned by fans at the half-time interval during Watford's home game against Plymouth Argyle Saturday. Supporters are being encouraged to hold up posters bearing Bangura's picture, with the words "He's Family" underneath.
Bangura, who told his tribunal hearing he was trafficked to Britain from Sierra Leone at the age of 15 and sexually assaulted, before seeking refuge as an unaccompanied minor, said he was disappointed at the ruling.
But he welcomed the massive support he was getting.
"People from all over the country are supporting me, English people. People from the country I want to live in and that makes me happy to know that," he added.
"I'm glad they want me to be one of them as well. I want to thank them for what they've done for me. I only hope I am able to see them soon and show my thanks to all of them."
Bangura is currently sidelined with an ankle injury and has not played for Watford since late August.