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zeshbeing awardedthepfacommunityawardin2010

The Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) is pleased to announce the start of its unique 'Sidelined-to-Sidelines' programme which is being funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA).

There are currently no suitably qualified coaches working in the Premier League or Football League originating from South Asian (Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan) backgrounds. Given that South Asians make up over 50% of the UK's non-European population there is a clear under-representation of this population within British football.

Gordon Taylor, Chief Executive at the PFA and Chairman of the Premier League and PFA Charitable Fund said: "We at the PFA will be working closely with the ZRF and the associated clubs to ensure that the coaches on this project will get the best possible support to become elite coaches.

"The lack of Asians involved in all areas of the game is something which we are striving to increase and we anticipate this programme to be rolled out with more clubs after the initial pilot.

"Zesh is an excellent role model for many young people from all communities and since he was awarded the PFA Player in the Community Award in 2010 by fellow professionals he has continued his commitment to give back to the community via his own Foundation and supporting other charitable causes".

The 'Sidelined-to-Sidelines' is a coach education and mentoring programme which will see the ZRF work closely with the Chelsea FC Foundation and QPR in the Community Trust to give 50 young participants the opportunity to gain football related qualifications, learn from professional club coaches, acquire the necessary skills to act as role models and help develop provision in predominantly Asian areas.

Simon Morgan, Head of the Premier League Charitable Trust said: "The Premier League is fully aware of the under-representation of British Asians at all levels of the game.

"We have worked closely with the ZRF to develop Sidelined-to-Sidelines and are confident this programme will offer viable coaching pathways for young people from minority communities.

"The ZRF have proven through their work that they have the skill sets and expertise to access a community where clubs have previously had little connection.

"With Zesh's notable achievements both on and off the pitch and the high regards he is held amongst all stakeholders of the game, I'm sure Zesh's involvement with the project will certainly inspire the cohort of coaches to develop and enter the world of professional coaching".

The ZRF was launched by former Fulham defender and PFA Management Committee Member Zesh Rehman in May 2010. Zesh became the first British Asian to play in the English Premier League and in all three divisions of the Football League representing Fulham, QPR, Norwich, Brighton, Blackpool and Bradford City, whilst also appearing for England Under 17's and Under 20's.

Zesh said: "I am delighted that both the Premier League and PFA are funding this programme and committed to developing football within communities which are under-represented.

"All the staff at the Premier League, PFA, QPR and Chelsea have worked tirelessly to ensure we develop a programme which will leave a legacy in the communities it is delivered in.

"With the Premier League being biggest followed brand in the world and the PFA having the world's largest sporting union, to be working in partnership with both will only further inspire others to get involved.

If you are Asian, aged 16-25 years of age and would like to get involved please click here to request more information.



QPR in the Community Trust have joined forces with the Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) to tackle the under-representation of South Asians in British football.

The Trust will work closely with the ZRF to deliver Sidelined-to-Sidelines – its new unique coach education and mentoring programme funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association.

South Asians make up over 50% of the UK's non-European population but there are currently no suitably qualified coaches working in the Premier League or Football League originating from South Asian (Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani or Sri Lankan) backgrounds.

Sidelined-to-Sidelines will give 25 young participants the opportunity to gain football-related qualifications, learn from professional club coaches and acquire the necessary skills to act as role models and help develop provision in predominantly Asian areas.

Andy Evans, CEO of QPR in the Community Trust, said: "I am delighted that we have been able to partner with the Zesh Rehman Foundation.

"Zesh was an inspirational member of the QPR team whilst here as a player and was passionate about bringing change to the communities surrounding Loftus Road.

"It is important that our workforce is reflective of the communities that we serve in west and north west London, and through Sidelined-to-Sidelines we aim to inspire the next generation of coaches from the South Asian community to enter the professional world of football coaching.

"We are really excited about this project and look forward to working intensely with the 25 young aspiring coaches and, of course, our partner the Zesh Rehman Foundation."

The ZRF was launched in May 2010 by Rehman, who became the first Asian to play in the English Premier League and in all three divisions of the Football League.

The Pakistan international and former R's defender – who currently plays for Hong Kong First Division side Kitchee – spent three seasons at Loftus Road as well as representing Fulham, Norwich City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Blackpool and Bradford City.

His 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.

The ZRF works at the grassroots in these communities to help aspiring footballers and coaches develop their skills through coaching clinics, soccer schools and personal development courses.

Rehman said: "I have fond memories of my time playing for QPR and am pleased to be working closely once again with Andy Evans and all the staff within QPR in the Community Trust.

"QPR have delivered some fantastic work in west London. It only feels like yesterday that I was visiting schools for the QPR Trust.

"There is a massive British Asian community within the area and I'm sure the partnership around the coaching education programme will create a great buzz for those involved."

An opening recruitment day for coaches onto the programme is scheduled for mid-April.


The lack of South Asians playing professional football in England has been a topical issue for the best part of 15 years. Many community departments at professional clubs have developed projects to try and encourage participation within under-represented communities. One area of the game which has recieved very little recognition is scouting. 

For the past few years, Kick It Out have organised the 'Raise Your Game' conference which allows budding coaches and people with an interest to get involved in the game an opportunity to meet football industry insiders to gain knowledge.

One Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) coach and mentor who has taken a different role within the football industry is Irfan Kawri. Irfan was a rising star as a youngster at Rochdale AFC, got released at the age of 15 but still went onto represent Zambia at under 20 level. Having not made the grade as a top flight player Irfan decided to persue a career in coaching and is now a PE teacher and Scout working as an Opposition / Player analyst.

"I was determined to stay involved in the game and so decided to gain my coaching qualifications and went to University. I started to volunteer at local junior clubs to gain experience and improve as a coach. I then got a role with Rochdale AFC first as a Scout identifying talent then as a coach at the Academy which was then a centre of excellence".

Irfan, whom is a self motivated individual who has been involved with the ZRF since December 2010 has been influential in developing the "Get Up Get Moving" programme alongside Liverpool First team Doctor Zafar Iqbal, as well as, passing on his knowledge and experience to budding coaches and players within the ZRF.

"Like Zesh, I believe I have a responsibility to pass on my knowledge to others who have an interest to become coaches, players, managers or scouts.

"A few years ago I would never have imagined that I would be embarking on a career as a First team opposition/player analyst and scout. There are so many jobs within football which you can get into and I think scouting is possibly one role within football which has not been highlighted.

"Young people from BME backgrounds who have a passion to get involved within the game should come into it with an open-mind and not be scared to explore other avenues which they previously would never have thought of".

Irfan, at the age of only 31 has shown how a positive attitude, volunteering, ambition and a desire to work within the industry can open up doors which previously may have been perceived to only be for white male counterparts.

"As a minority in the field of scouting I believe my grounding at Rochdale, firstly a youth scout then a Centre of Excellence coach and doing opposition/player analysis work for the youth team has helped me to be where I am today and I am thankful to the staff at Rochdale for their support.

"To be part of a network of scouts working for Scout 7, who are the leading provider for professional football working with over 150 clubs worldwide is something great to be part of and the support from the staff Andy Cooper, Kevin Russell and Andy Kidby has been invaluable".

Irfan has also had some good reviews from those who work closely with him. Andy Cooper, Communications executive from Scout 7 said:

"Irfan had previous experience in producing assessments for clubs, both in the Football League and in the Non-Leagues, and after studying a couple of previous examples of his work we felt he possessed the potential to join our national network of scouts following completion of our internal training.

"What impressed us in particular was his ability to take on feedback and apply it into his work - we sent him out to three or four training assignments to refine his content and having taken all of our comments on board, he has now been completing opposition assessments for us for the past six weeks.

To further develop as a scout, Irfan also does work with the Barnsley first team, working closely with First Team Technical Coach Martin Scott to produce opposition/player reports.

"The experience I have had with Barnsley has been invaluable. The Gaffer Flicka and first team coach Scottie have given me the opportunity to develop in this area and can't thank them enough. Scottie always gives me his time even at 7.15 in the morning he picks up the phone to discuss things with me. Both real charismatic lads and great to be around."

First team coach Martin Scott continued:

"Having been introduced to Irfan a few months ago it was quite obvious how passionate and motivated he was to learn new skills in the professional football environment.

"We at Barnsley FC are always willing to help any aspiring coach or scout develop in these areas, and Irfan has been very pro active in making himself available to watch opposition games, or produce individual player reports for us where he has demonstrated some good knowledge of the game".

As an ethnic minority role model working in professional football Irfan was recently selected by the PFA to train as an Equality tutor to deliver workshops to players.



The ZRF founder Zesh Rehman ends 2012 with a visit to the Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College in Hong Kong as guest speaker to celebrate the college end of year Achievement Awards.

Zesh, who signed for Kitchee SC in January 2012 following a successful first year in Asia with Muang Thong United - who were managed by former Liverpool Forward Robbie Fowler in the latter part of the season, reflected.

"The last twelve months have absolutely flown by. Playing wise with Kitchee has been a very successful year with us winning the treble and currently sitting second in the table with only a point behind South China.

"Off the field, I have got involved with some fantastic grass root initiatives and delivered talks in various Schools and community centres to inspire and motivate young people to do more and be more."

Kitchee SC entertained Arsenal during pre-season and Zesh feels the interest of the English game has grown over the last two years.

"Football is a global game and matches played in England are shown in all corners of the world. With Hong Kong being 8 hours ahead of UK time it can sometimes be difficult to watch matches but the Chinese do stay up late to watch games.

"There has also been a few occasions at Kitchee games where I have met QPR and Fulham fans who have to come to matches to meet me and hear more about the differences and similarities of the game."


Throughout his career, Zesh has continuously got involved within the community with the clubs he has represented and was awarded the PFA's Community Award Winner in 2010 for his dedication and involvement at the grass roots. Talking about his motivation, Zesh said:

"Getting involved within the community is something I have done since I was 16 and starting of in the Academy with Fulham.

"It's always rewarding to see young children and youth be inspired by your experiences in the game and if I can help to change the thinking of young people and see them channel their energies in the right direction is a plus for me.


"I've never seen it as a burden and it is something I will continue to do throughout my playing career and beyond."

Talking about his visit to the Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College Zesh was overwhelmed with the hospitality and the enthusiasm for everyone at the College to get involved with his own charitable foundation.

"When I signed for Kitchee in January 2012, the Principal Ho Sau Yin Zareenah got in touch with the club regards to me visiting their college and speaking with a cohort of students.

"However, with our fixture schedule being very hectic during the second half of the season and then preparing for pre-season made it difficult for me to attend.

"I had a couple of meetings with the college who then arranged for students and families to watch matches – it's great to see the Asian and Muslim community at the games and taking a genuine interest in the club.

"I was recently invited to their achievements day at the college and presented young people with their awards and prizes. It was a whole day event where I also participated in a teachers/staff versus students 6 a-side game – which was played in good spirits.

"Everyone at the college made me feel very welcome and have shown an interest to get involved with my Foundation. For students here, I hope to be mentoring a few of them on a regular basis and helping them to balance sport and education.

"We spoke briefly about an overseas exchange programme which would see students from Hong Kong visit England to get involved with the ZRF, partake in a sports development course, have tours of stadiums and watch a few games.

"Many of the students spoke fluent English and Cantonese and I think a visit to England would widen their horizons and give them an insight into the different job opportunities within football and sport, as well as, inspire them more academically.

"We have also spoken about young people from England coming over to Hong Kong during 2013 to experience similar initiatives."

The ZRF has gone from strength to strength since starting with delivering a pilot project in one School in Bradford – projects are now established in London and Bolton.

"We have only been a registered charity for the best part of two years but already we have delivered some fantastic projects in different areas in England and I feel 2013 will be a huge year for everyone involved.

We have some exciting projects due to start with the Premier League and PFA which will form the back-bone of the foundations work moving forward.

"We have reviewed our aims and objectives and have got a board of directors who have experience in the field we work in. I feel it's important we first cement our place in the UK before we start thinking about working in other countries as there are many people in the UK who need our continuous support."



Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary and MP for Tooting attended the Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) 'Football for All – Soccer School' at Furzedown Recreation on Saturday (27th October). The weekly football session, which is currently into its fifth week, has so far seen over 100 young children aged 3 to 14 sign up to attend. The football sessions are delivered by FA qualified coaches and aim to give an enjoyable experience to young people regardless of their ability.

"I had heard about the work of the Zesh Rehman Foundation through friends who's children have been attending for the past few weeks", said MP Sadiq Khan.

"There is currently a lack of opportunities for young children in the area and it's fabulous to see the ZRF offering football for all in the Tooting area.

"It was great to see young boys and girls playing together and enjoying themselves in the cold weather and I'm positive this project will continue to grow and be a success.

"All the coaches seemed to have built up a fantastic rapport with both the children and their parents and I'm not surprised that so many children from across Wandsworth have attended.

"With all the racism allegations in professional football, it's great to see Zesh Rehman putting his time into something positive and he's a brilliant role model for these young children to aspire to".

The ZRF was launched by former Fulham, QPR and Bradford City Captain Zesh Rehman in May 2010. Zesh was the first British Asian to play in the Premier League and started the ZRF with the aim of help aspiring footballers and coaches develop their skills through coaching clinics, soccer schools and personal development courses. The ZRF also use the power of sport as a platform to address and aid community cohesion and integration, while also providing opportunities for young people and adults to get involved in coaching.

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Riz Rehman, who is the brother of Zesh Rehman and who oversees all the work of the Foundation said:

"To have someone so influential like Mr Sadiq Khan showing his support for our 'Football for All' is a great honour.

"We have found that a lot of young children living in the area have missed opportunities to attend weekend sport activities due to other various commitments such as language lesson which generally run in the mornings.

"Our 2pm start means that children who otherwise would not get the opportunity to play can get involved and the feedback so far from parents and children has exceeded expectations.

"It's pleasing to see children and parents from all backgrounds attend, having fun and making new friends.

"Its not just football skills were trying to improve but the life skills of children and it's a chance for them to build their social skills, get fit and active, and potentially progress onto junior club football".



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September Newsletter

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