WHEN Bradford PHAB chairman Akbar Khan received a phone call last week from England manager Gareth Southgate, he thought it was a wind-up.

But Akbar was soon to find he was, indeed, speaking to the national team manager and was even more astonished to find he had been named in the FA's Lionheart squad whose recent high profile signing was that of Captain Sir Tom Moore.

England manager Gareth Southgate had the pleasure of making the extra call-up to Akbar, prior to naming his own squad last Tuesday to face Iceland and Denmark in the UEFA Nations League.

The Three Lions boss took time out to praise the humble community champion for his inspirational work for the Bradford community.

The call-up came following several nominations for Akbar and he has been awarded shirt number 16 in the special squad and said he was left speechless when he picked up the phone to Southgate, describing the nominations and place in the squad as 'amazing' and a 'proud moment'.

Speaking about his unstinting charity work he said: "I just did what I had to do to keep our club going and our community connected. I tried to provide activities for everyone and keep them fed and watered during these difficult times," said Akbar.

"I just felt it was my duty to do that, because I've done it for such a long time and they're an extended family to me."

Akbar is chairman of Bradford Phab Club, part of a national network enabling people with physical disabilities to socialise. He has been continually involved with the charity for almost 40 years owning to his two brothers suffering from muscular dystrophy.

Sadly, both brothers died at a young age but Akbar has remaining committed to the Phab cause in a role which sees him arranging inclusive activities for club members, such as flying lessons, abseiling, rock climbing, archery, swimming, summer sports camps and theme park trips to name a few.

He was awarded the framed number 16 shirt during a sporting activity for Bradford Phab being held at Bierley Cricket Club.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has gone even further by setting up daily Zoom meetings and arranged events such as talent nights, bingo, quizzes and competitions to keep all of the members in touch as well as giving them all the opportunity to get to know each other even more than before.

On top of that, he helped to organise twice-weekly food parcel deliveries to members of the club as well as getting support from local restaurants and supermarkets.

The Lionhearts initiative, supported by BT, will pay homage to 23 inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond during this challenging time for the nation.