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The Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) held its first Football Festival at the Streatham-Croydon Rugby Club in Thornton Heath on Sunday 7 September 2014.

The FREE event aimed to encourage more children (boys and girls) to participate in grassroots football and be signposted towards local junior clubs and activities, where they can play more regularly.

Children had the opportunity to learn from professional club coaches from the Chelsea FC and Crystal Palace FC Foundation as well as from ZRF football coaches part of the Premier League and PFA funded 'Sidelined-2-Sidelines' (s2s) coaching programme, an initiative that has supported coaches from within the Asian community in finding roles at professional clubs including Brentford, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, West Ham and Queens Park Rangers to date.

The event was also supported by Gambados, an exciting indoor play venue in Beckenham that offers children the chance to play, learn and explore in a fun, safe, learning environment. Volunteers from Gambados were on hand to support coaches deliver whilst offering all families a free ticket to attend the Beckenham site.

Representatives from Kick It Out were also present on the day and handed each child a goodie bag that included a free t-shirt and information about the work of Kick It Out at the grassroots.

Mrs Shazia Khan from Thornton Heath, whose 9 year old son participated in the day said: "My son loves football and has been asking me for a while to get him into competitive weekend football. In all honesty I was not aware of the process but after attending today, speaking with the coaches and gathering the information I needed, I can honestly say it's been worthwhile for me. My son has been invited to attend the ZRF Juniors FC session next Wednesday and I know this will give my son that extra bit of motivation which he needed".

On the day all children participating were put through a series of ball-related drills and skills and then involved in small-sided games. ZRF volunteers mingled with parents to give them more information about what the ZRF and partner organisations deliver to ensure there is something for everyone following on from the day.

Mr Miah from Streatham, whose 7 year old son attended said: "Ibrahim loves football but he has only ever played in the garden or around the park with his brother. Today was a real eye opener for us and we got more information as to where we could take him for regular sessions. As soon as we got home from the event, he went to the garden straight away and continued practising skills he learnt from the coaches. We are both now looking forward to attending the Zesh Rehman Foundation regular Soccer School session on Saturday".

Riz Rehman, Director at the ZRF, said:

"There are many children playing recreationally but there is still a lack of representation amongst children from Asian backgrounds playing competitive grassroots football within FA affiliated clubs across the country. More players represented at grassroots clubs will widen the opportunities for Asian players to be identified and recruited within development centres and academies. Our work is about the 100% rather than the 1%".

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