A passion for football has driven Mohammed Umair Khan’s determination to control his asthma and achieve his goals. The passion has also seen him honoured with a 2023 national Respiratory Achiever Award.

“I realised I needed to live to live with asthma, and not try and stop it,” Umair explains. “I knew that I would have to train harder than my team mates to get to the same level. I needed to do more in my personal time to build up my lungs so that I could play the full game.”

Through regular training, persistence and consistent use of his medication, Umair is now not only able to play a full game, he was the top goal scorer for both his football club and his school football team last season. He plays attacking midfielder, a position where running and keeping up with the pace is essential.

Umair was diagnosed with asthma at age six and says as a younger child, it was a barrier for him. “It caused struggles for me. I couldn’t do school sports sometimes and kids would make fun of me.” Another issue was sleep. Umair’s asthma was waking him throughout the night, leaving him exhausted during the day. After improving his fitness and lung capacity, he sleeps better and has more energy.

Umair’s dad, Tabrez, says after witnessing his son’s struggles to breathe he was initially concerned about letting Umair play sport. “It was advice from our family GP that changed that for us. She told us that lifestyle was as important as medication in managing asthma. That was a pivotal point for us.”

Umair’s determination has also brought him academic success. He was the top male student in his year and received an endorsed excellence in Level One NCEA. He is also a devout Muslim, who is memorising the Qu’ran. “We recite the Qu’ran aloud, so you actually need strong lungs to do this,” explains Tabrez.

Umair says having asthma has taught him some useful life lessons. “I am proud that I have overcome my fear of having a respiratory condition. I know that if I work hard, I can cope with other problems.”

Umair hopes to continue his run as top goal scorer this football season and is working towards become a health professional specialising in respiratory conditions.

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