Riq Ayub is one of the most well known names when you talk about American football on the British side of the pond.
A career that has spanned more than 30 years has seen him break records at domestic level with the London Olympians and even taste success at international level with the Great Britain Lions.
His achievements, especially at the global level, are something he is understandably extremely proud of and he looks back on his time as coach of the Lions with fondness. But it hasn’t always been that way.
During his upbringing in London, Ayub suffered lots of racism due to the colour of his skin, racism which in turn fuelled hatred towards the flag of the Union Jack.
Speaking to the UKPigskin Podcast, the Olympians head coach said: “As a kid I suffered a lot of racism and a lot of bullying because of racism.
“I was born in Scotland by the grace of the God to an immigrant. I’m a second generation immigrant, I was brought to south London and I had a broad Scottish accent.
“The colour of my skin wasn’t appreciated by everybody and I grew to hate the Union Jack.
“It was not my thing whatsoever and in 1995 when I became the head coach of the Great Britain squad, I thought, ‘how am I going to do this?’ because every time I looked at the Union Jack it meant something completely different to me.
“I made up my mind to tell people that ‘guys, our colours are red white and blue and you are all purple. Everybody in this room is purple but our colours are red white and blue and that’s how we are going to approach this.’
“I had Scottish kids and there was sectarianism amongst them because that was still there in the early days but that was my way and American football’s way of saying you can use this situation to re-own the flag and now I am so proud of the Union Jack, all those bad memories are gone.
“The Union Jack, the national anthem still gives me a buzz, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.”
American football helped restore that pride for Ayub and he is now keen to use the sport as a platform to carry on educating young players and coaches to grow not only as professionals but as people, too.
“My job now is to develop as many kids and coaches at the London Olympians that can represent their country, that are proud to be here, proud to serve as GB Lions” he added.
“I will try and get them in the NFL if that’s where they want to go or the coaches but most of all just work with men to be better people.
“For me it’s to help people grow, use my experience, let them lean on me and share the knowledge.”
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