An international basketball player who moved to London to escape Somalia’s looming civil war has become one of the capital’s latest victims of Covid-19.
Bana Ali, 54, a Transport for London engineer, spent almost a month in intensive care at the Royal Free Hospital but died on April 28.
He leaves four children and his wife Muna, who also lost her father and her uncle to the virus last month.
Latest figures show 41 TfL workers, including 31 bus drivers, have died with Covid-19.
Mr Ali was described as a “legend” by a former coach of the Somali basketball squad, both as a player and for his work to help rebuild the sport following the bloodshed in his home nation.
Today his wife spoke of her sadness, describing her husband as a “loving father” and “a great human being with a huge heart”.
She added: “I have not only lost a loving husband but a generous and exceptional human who was the backbone of my family. I will continue living for him, keeping his memory and legacy alive. I will remember him forever.”
Mr Ali moved to Europe in the late 1980s, escaping political tensions that led to civil war breaking out in the country in 1991.
He studied electronic engineering at Middlesex University, then joined TfL, where he worked for 23 years in a team overseeing London Underground improvement projects. In his most recent management position, he was modernising the way maintenance teams work.
He continued to promote Somali basketball around the world, working as secretary-general for international relations for the national team.
Mr Ali’s son Abdalla said: “We hope that his legacy will serve as an inspiration and beacon to all who knew him. I couldn’t have been a prouder son. To see how many lives he touched fills me with joy. I hope to continue his legacy.”
In 2005, Mr Ali provided financing for the Somali basketball team to take part in its first overseas tournament since the conflict, arranging the trip to Cairo.
Abdirahman Mohamud Guhad, a former Somali national team coach, said: “Bana was a legendary basketball player but also a well-loved and a committed public servant.
“Bana invested his time, energy and financial resources into reviving Somalia’s basketball team.”
In his role, Mr Ali attended some of the biggest events in the world, including the Olympics, and was pictured with athletic stars such as Kobe Bryant, Andy Murray and Mo Farah.
Mike Brown, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “Bana was a kind person and highly regarded member of the team, serving Londoners for 20 years.”