“He is friendly and open-minded."
A Pakistani refugee who lived with Gary Lineker in 2020 has revealed what it was like staying in the BBC presenter’s home.
Law student Rasheed Baluch spoke out after the ex-footballer was reinstated as Match of the Day host, following his criticism of the government’s new asylum policy.
Arranged by Refugees at Home (RaH), Rasheed lived with Gary Lineker at his £4 million Surrey home for a few weeks in 2020 and was given a free bed and board.
Hailing Gary as a “caring and loving defender of humanity”, Rasheed backed him for speaking out against Tory proposals for deporting migrants.
Speaking about the time, Rasheed 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.”
Rasheed fled Balochistan, fearing for his safety. But his wife is still there.
Speaking about his stay with the star, Rasheed said Gary helped him with his travel costs, was keen to hear his story and was a “fantastic cook who served mindblowing meals”.
Rasheed continued: “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.”
Rasheed said Gary cooked him fish, chicken and red meat-based dishes. In return, Rasheed made a biryani which “Gary’s sons liked very much”.
Gary Lineker previously shared a letter to him written by Rasheed, in which he said:
“I can never forget your hospitality, love and company that you and your lovely respectful children gave to me.”
Gary described Rasheed’s stay as a “hugely positive experience”, thanking him “for giving such a different perspective on life” to him and his sons.
After staying with Gary for 20 days, Rasheed stayed with RaH co-founder Sara Nathan for a month before finding his own accommodation.
The organisation has helped 4,357 people with a total of 326,498 placement nights.
Sara said: “We take great joy in matching refugees and asylum seekers with hosts, especially when it works as well as sending Rasheed to Gary did.
“Hosting demonstrates the welcome and warmth people in the UK can offer those fleeing war and persecution.
“It enables people to demonstrate their shared humanity.”