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Zesh Rehman's former club Fulham FC supported the cohort of coaches on the Sidelined-2-Sidelines initiative - read more below and on the Fulham FC website.

Fulham FC's Motspur Park training ground was the venue for the latest stage of the Zesh Rehman Foundation's (ZRF) efforts to tackle under-representation of British Asians in football.

The ZRF flagship project, 'Sidelined-2-Sidelines', funded by the Professional Footballers' Association and the Premier League, aims to address the imbalance in the number of British Asian coaches in football by giving 50 young participants the opportunity to gain football-related qualifications, learn from professional club coaches and acquire the necessary skills to act as role models within their communities.

Fulham FC has nominated this Saturday's home fixture against Southampton as its designated 'Kick It Out' awareness match and, earlier this month, coaches from the Premier League club delivered a theory session focusing on 'Producing Technical Players' and a coaching master class for a number of coaches from the ZRF.

Fulham Under-11s Academy Lead Coach and Coach Educator Keith Stiles, who co-hosted the session alongside Under-12s Support Coach Rupesh Popat, said: "The coaches were very receptive and actively involved throughout. Initiatives like this are very important as they give young people an opportunity to get a better insight of how the Academy system works and the step-up from grassroots coaching to Academy level.

"I fully support the aims behind the ZRF, and for them to have a mentor on board like Rupesh who is already working within the Academy system, will give the cohort of coaches a ready-made role model to aspire to".

Rehman was the first British Asian to play in the Premier League when he made his debut for Fulham against Liverpool in April 2004.

Now playing his football in the Malaysian Super League for Pahang FA, for whom he recently lifted the Charity Cup on his debut, the foundation that runs under the Pakistan international captain's name continues to grow with strong support from the football governing bodies and a number of professional clubs all geared towards striving to change perceptions and myths surrounding British Asians in football by providing opportunities to disadvantaged and under-represented communities.

Rehman said: "I am delighted that Fulham FC has opened their doors to give young people from my Foundation an opportunity to learn from experienced Academy coaches. To have Keith and Rupesh spend over four hours on a Saturday afternoon to support the development of community coaches is a testament to everyone at Fulham.

"I have fond memories of my time at the Club and I remember supporting, along with all of the players, many of the worthwhile initiatives delivered by the Fulham FC Foundation, particularly the Social Inclusion work. It's really pleasing to see how these programmes have developed and how Fulham remains at the forefront of positive work and groundbreaking projects within their local communities

"I would like to thank Geoff Noonan (Fulham Academy Coach Developer) and Steve Day (CEO, Fulham FC Foundation) for making this visit possible and, from speaking with some of the attendees, I know they took valuable information away from the session which will help them in their coaching careers."

Since the launch of the initiative, a number of young coaches have experienced coaching roles within professional club academies and community departments, including Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers who are formal partners of the project, as well as Fulham and Crystal Palace.

Vikas Sadiq, who coaches on the Schools Programme and Soccer Schools at Fulham FC Foundation, said: "12 months ago this was just a distant dream. I've always had a passion for football but never thought I would be working at a professional club.

"Without the support of the ZRF this would not have been possible and it's like a dream to be coaching at Fulham and one I hope to make the most of. The workshop at Motspur Park was possibly one of the best we've had and I know I will be implementing the information given to me into my future coaching sessions."

The Premier League featured the Zesh Rehman Foundation 'Sidelined-2-Sidelines' initiative with the Chelsea FC Foundation - read the story below and on the Premier League website.

Two young people are gaining valuable coaching experience with Chelsea's community programme after being given a pathway into sport with the partnership of the Chelsea Foundation and the Zesh Rehman Foundation.

Both organisations have been working closely to deliver Sidelined-2-Sidelines (S2S), a coach education and mentoring initiative which is funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association.

S2S started last year and aims to increase the number of young people from minority communities accessing high-quality football coaching. The programme also hopes to inspire volunteer coaches at grassroots level, provide pathways into the professional game and to provide training for coaches as youth workers to engage with disadvantage communities.

The scheme is aimed at 16-25-year-olds and has already given 25 people from South London the opportunity to gain football-related qualifications by learning from professional football coaches. Two members, Ragesh Nambiar and Fahad Najeeb, are now coaching on a regular basis within the Chelsea Foundation.

Ragesh has five coaching qualifications including his FA Level 2 badge and coaches two regular weekly sessions in Balham and Uxbridge. He says Rob Udberg, the Head of Development at Chelsea Ladies FC, gave him the confidence to gain the qualifications.

"When Rob Udberg came to deliver a workshop, he made us realise that you don't have to have been a professional player to become a top coach," Ragesh said.

"He told us that there are pathways in place if we work hard enough, and since being part of the Chelsea FC, I have definitely improved as a coach. All the staff are always passing on useful information to me to improve as a coach and I hope to continue my development and learn from everyone around me.

"To be part of Sidelined-2-Sidelined which is working closely with Chelsea to give more Asians a chance in the game is very special."

Zesh Rehman became the first British Asian to play in the Barclays Premier League while playing for Fulham and after spells in the Football League at Norwich City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Queens Park Rangers, Blackpool and Bradford City, he has since taken his skills to Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaysia, where he currently plays for Pahang FA.

Rehman, who also captains the Pakistan national team, started his foundation in 2010 with the vision of changing perceptions surrounding British Asians in football, including the fight against religious barriers associated with communities which have a high number of South Asians.

"I am delighted that the funding from Premier League and PFA has enabled us to work closely with Chelsea FC and provide genuine pathways for the coaches on the programme," said Rehman, who has been a supporter of Chelsea's Asian Star programme, which aims to give a boost to Asian participation at all levels of the game.

"Chelsea have shown a continued commitment to encourage more Asian children to get into the game by holding their annual 'Asian Star' and by us now working more closely with the club we hope to play a bigger part in the next Asian Star."

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Zesh Rehman recently spoke to Sky Sports about the work of the Zesh Rehman Foundation and more specifically the Sidelined-2-Sidelines initiative - read the article below and on the Sky Sports website.

As the first British-Asian to play in the Premier League, it's perhaps understandable that former Fulham defender Zesh Rehman should become something of a symbolic figure in football. However, it takes a certain type of person to carry that mantle with the passion and commitment that the Birmingham-born Pakistan International captain has displayed in launching the Zesh Rehman Foundation.

Launched in 2010, the not-for-profit organisation is devoted to social inclusion in football and has grown rapidly since then, now enjoying the support of the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association as well as various top-flight clubs in the country's capital. Despite now playing his football in Malaysia, with the help of his brother Riz, Rehman retains big ambitions for the future of his Foundation.

"I started the Foundation because I was being bombarded by young people and parents who wanted their children to be footballers or just become involved in football," Rehman tells Sky Sports. "Of course, not everyone is going to become a football player but within the game there are hundreds of jobs and I wanted to raise awareness. So the aim of the Foundation is to encourage children and young people from all backgrounds and ethnicities to aspire to enter the football industry."

Although Rehman might be seen as an inspiration for Asian youngsters in Britain, he is keen to make clear that inclusion for all is the key. "There was perhaps a lack of opportunity for minority groups such as British-Asian," he adds. "But I must stress that the Foundation is for everybody, not just for Asians. Naturally, there are British-Asians who will feel more inclined to join because of my background but we engage young people from all parts of the community and try to offer something for everyone.

"Our main flagship project, called Sidelined-2-Sidelines is funded by the Premier League and the PFA and currently delivered in association with Chelsea and QPR. The project is working with 50 participants and aims to address the imbalance in the number of British-Asian coaches in football by providing access to coaching qualifications, opportunities to learn from the country's best coach educators.

"These guys get their qualifications and improve their self-esteem. Hopefully they are staying off the street and out of trouble so it's a win-win for everybody. We have got lads who six months ago were just loitering around the streets of Croydon and getting into gangs. They felt working within the professional game was impossible. Now they have turned their lives around. These coaches have become role models within their own communities and in doing so they are inspiring those around them. That's the whole point."

Rehman's enthusiasm is infectious and it's a testament to the enduring power of football that this work has captured the attention of so many in disenfranchised communities. "Football is the perfect vehicle to inspire change and encourage people to do more and become more," he explains. "It's loved by everybody across the globe and it doesn't matter about your height or weight, your gender, background or disability. There is something there for everybody to get involved.

"Hopefully we can make a difference to people's lives and empower them to fulfil their potential. Not everybody has to end up working within the professional game and we do have coaches setting up new grassroots teams to encourage children and adults to take up the game. We've had coaches who started as volunteers and are now either working full-time or gone back into education. That's a success. That's why I'm delighted the major bodies within the game are supporting our work because it's allowing us to work with more disadvantaged young people as part of a bigger picture to grow the game."

The involvement of the Premier League and PFA has helped facilitate the potential for further development and a proposed link-up with other Premier League clubs presents the opportunity of expansion from London into the rest of the country. Typically, Rehman is looking not just to the provinces but beyond these shores and a possible tie-in with the continent where he has his roots.

"Our flagship project is currently in the London region but this year we are looking to do like-minded work in the Midlands and up in the North with the leading clubs," he says. "Eventually, the ambition is to do some exchange programmes between the UK and Asia." Given the drive that has taken the project this far, you're left with a sense that the Zesh Rehman Foundation will only go from strength to strength.

The Chelsea Foundation's continued support for the Zesh Rehman Foundation has seen two participants from the unique Sidelined-2-Sidelines initiative progress to coach within the club's community programmes.

The Foundation have been working closely with the ZRF since March to deliver Sidelined-2-Sidelines – its coach education and mentoring programme funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association.

Sidelined-to-Sidelines has given 25 young participants from South London the opportunity to gain football-related qualifications, learn from professional club coaches and acquire the necessary skills to act as role models within the community.

The partnership has proved successful to date with Ragesh Nambiar and Fahad Najeeb both now coaching regularly within the Chelsea Foundation.

Ragesh - who lives in Thornton Heath - has achieved 5 qualifications through the programme including his FA Level 2 coaching badge, and revealed meeting Chelsea coach Rob Udberg had proved crucial in building his self-belief as a coach.

'When Rob Udberg came to deliver a workshop, he made us realise that you don't have to have been a professional player to become a top coach,' said Ragesh, who coaches two regular weekly sessions in Balham and Uxbridge.

'He told us that there are pathways in place if we work hard enough, and since being part of the Chelsea FC, I have definitely improved as a coach.

'All the staff are always passing on useful information to me to improve as a coach and I hope to continue my development and learn from everyone around me.

'To be part of Sidelined-2-Sidelined which is working closely with Chelsea to give more Asians a chance in the game is very special.'

The ZRF was launched in May 2010 by Pakistan captain Zesh Rehman, who became the first British Asian to play in the Premier League while playing for Fulham and currently plies his trade in the Malaysian Super League for Pahang FC.

The charity strives to change perceptions and myths surrounding British Asians in football by providing more opportunities in disadvantaged communities – combating cultural and religious barriers associated with communities which have a high number of South Asians.

'I am delighted that the funding from Premier League and PFA has enabled us to work closely with Chelsea FC and provide genuine pathways for the coaches on the programme,' said Rehman, who has previously supported our Asian Star programme.

'Chelsea have shown a continued commitment to encourage more Asian children to get into the game by holding their annual 'Asian Star' and by us now working more closely with the club we hope to play a bigger part in the next Asian Star.'

Read more about the programme on the Chelsea FC website by clicking here.

The Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) is pleased to be welcoming Tom Byer to London to meet its coaches, children and parents on Wednesday 18th December. Tom is a former professional football player originally from New York but who is now based in Tokyo, Japan as one of the most decorated and admired football coaches in the Asian region.

Judged by his football peers, the local and international media, and the countless number of young Japanese over the space of 24 years, Tom has forever changed the way football is taught and played throughout Japan and now his name and reputation is attracting greater interest worldwide.

Having spent time with Zesh Rehman in Asia last year, Tom was given an insight into the work of the ZRF by its founder and promised to deliver a coaching masterclass when over in the UK.

Tom will deliver a workshop to coaches on the ZRF 'Sidelined-2-Sidelines' programme which is funded by the Premier League / PFA and delivered in association with Chelsea and QPR FC. The aim of the programme is to up-skill coaches and offer pathways into grassroots, amateur and professional football. Children from ZRF Juniors FC under 9's and under 11's will get an opportunity to participate in a coaching masterclass delivered by Tom.

The workshop will run 18:00 - 20:00 in Tooting, South London.

Pictures and a short video of the coaching masterclass will be uploaded onto the website later in the week.

To find out more about Tom Byer and his work click here.

You can also follow Tom Byer on twitter @tomsan106

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Vikas Sadiq of the Zesh Rehman Foundation has praised Chelsea’s Asian Star and urged youngsters interested in football...

Premier League supported S2S Education Day proves a success

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Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club, played host to the Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) ‘Sidelined-2-Sidelines’...
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