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The Zesh Rehman foundation launches Football for All in Croydon

The Zesh Rehman Foundation has officially joined forces with Crystal Palace to help change the perceptions and myths surrounding Asians in football.

The partnership was born following the recent Audience with Zesh Rehman, which took place at Selhurst Park. The event addressed a range of issues including social inclusion, how to break down barriers and the future for British Asians in football.

The Football for All programme has since been launched to offer opportunities to aspiring footballers and coaches to develop their skills through coaching clinics and courses, soccer schools and volunteer placements.

The sessions will take place in Croydon, an area badly affected by the London riots last year. As a result they will take place on Friday nights from 8-10pm to give young people somewhere to go and something to focus their attentions on while also keeping fit.

As well as providing a safe environment to play football the programme will give participants an accredited training package with workshops to address social issues such as youth crime, anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, equality and diversity and conflict resolution.

Zesh Rehman, who set up the foundation in 2010 to address social inclusion and community cohesion and integration as well as helping more Asian youngsters into football, said: “My career has given me an insight into the understanding of the role that football has to play in inspiring young people, raising aspirations and achievements, and tackling a range of social issues such as racism, youth crime and educational under-achievement though the work of clubs, community groups and the wider football family.

This project with Crystal Palace will hopefully inspire more young people to take up the game, create community role models and inspire future coaches.

Colin Morris CEO of the Crystal Palace FC foundation added:

We are a community based club and want to appeal to all communities – we don’t have any Asian coaches within our department. This project will help to address this and encourage more Asians to become coaches and have opportunities within Crystal Palace.


The Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF), alongside partners at Active Communities NetworkCrystal Palace FCSSCN London and Kick it Out, are proud to announce a major event on the 15th November 2011 at Selhurst Park stadium – ‘An Audience With Zesh Rehman’.

Titled 'My Football Journey', Zesh will give a keynote speech on his career in football from a young man starting out in the game, through his time playing in the English Premier League and Football league, his current club in Thailand and his time captaining Pakistan on the international stage. Along the way Zesh will discuss his personal commitment to the development of Asian communities within the professional game, the role of footballers in society and his own Foundation.

Other speakers will include representatives of Crystal Palace FC, coaching staff from Premier League clubs and Kick it Out.

Strictly an invited guests only event, this will be an opportunity for young players, coaches and other interested parties to ask questions of both Zesh and the panel, and to engage with the ZRF.

As space is limited at this event, we are also inviting any interested parties to send questions to Zesh and the panel that we will try to ask on the day. If you are interested in sending questions please address them to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We are breaking questions into three areas:

'Football and Community Development' for questions relating to the work of the ZRF or the football community.

'Zesh Rehman - My Career' for questions of Zesh and his own development.

'Asian Football Participation' for questions directly related to building a career within the sport.

Please state which category you wish to put your question under when submitting.

A summary report of the event will be published for all interested parties shortly after the event.

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Zesh Rehman recently visited Harrow International School in Bangkok to chat with students informally before speaking in their Assembly. Zesh, who now plays with Thai Premier League champions Muang Thong United, talked about his early days growing up, his career and the importance of leadership in sport.

Zesh said: “The ZRF recognises that the progression of young people and communities is a central component of what we do. If we truly want to capacity build and develop the representation of Asian coaches, administrators, officials and players we have to take responsibility and support individuals on their pathway into the sport from a young age.

“In addition to our coach and player development projects, and our community cohesion projects, the ZRF will also offer training and development for the next generation of coaches and community role models, including, FA coaching badges at levels 1, Community Sports Leaders Awards, careers advice and seminars”.

The Operations Director for the ZRF, Riz Rehman continued: “In the immediate future we will be working with advisors from the Active Communities Network to develop an accredited curriculum, taking these and other elements of professional sports training, to provide a comprehensive training course for students and new coaches from Summer 2012”.

The Public Relations Director from Harrow International School Matthew Riley spoke of the success of Zesh’s visit to Harrow School: “Zesh is an excellent role model and there is clearly a great deal of scope for us to support the Zesh Rehman Foundation. Students from Harrow are from extremely privileged backgrounds and rarely have to confront the types of difficulties that Asian children growing up in the UK regularly encounter.

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“Taking the example of Ashraf Haziq, the Malaysian student who was cruelly beaten and then helped to his feet so that he could be robbed during the London riots, it is often the case that our students are naive. They come from a culture with strong vertical and horizontal family ties and expect that to be the same in the west. Whilst I wouldn’t want to scare our students, the ZRF can be an extremely helpful way of educating our future UK students through the programmes it has to offer”.

The country's first Muslim female Lord Mayor was in attendance when the ZRF rolled into Bradford today.

Councillor Naveeda Ikram, who grew up in the Punjab, saw first hand the work carried out by the ZRF that uses football to promote community cohesion. The event took place in Manningham, where 10 years ago, youths clashed with police that led to three nights of rioting.

The Lord Mayor spoke with volunteers, children and teachers at one of the ZRF’s ‘Community Cohesion Football Days’ which was participated by Westbourne (Manningham Ward) and Ley Top (Thornton & Allerton Ward) Primary Schools.

The schools are part of a 6-week school based programme called ‘Primary Kick About’ which is specifically designed for the ZRF and one that uses the power of football to enhance community cohesion, physical activity and promote health and wellbeing awareness.

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Lord Mayor Naveeda Ikram said:

"I have always taken a great interest in the local community and believe that sport at all levels can help realise the aspiration of community cohesion.

"The Zesh Rehman Foundation has been unique in the way it has boosted community cohesion and integration through its football education initiatives.

"It has now been 10 years since the Bradford Riots and holding community days like this for children from a young age can only help in the long-term.

"Zesh Rehman is an excellent ambassador for the city of Bradford, as well as, the country as a whole for what he has achieved and continuing to contribute to society."

Although Zesh was not present on the day due to training commitments, Zesh said:

“Bradford is a very multi-cultural city and our programmes compliment that as we pair together schools from different Wards which have a diverse ethnic make-up.

“The aim is to give pupils further understanding of the community in which they live in and how they can become good citizens by celebrating our differences rather than seeing them as a barrier to a truly cohesive society”.

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The Head Teacher at Westbourne Primary School, Belinda Wardle said:

“We have found the Foundations work to be of great benefit to the school and the children love it.

“The community cohesion sports day between schools help to cross cultural boundaries, develop personal and social skills for our children and contributes to the Healthy Schools work”.

Riz Rehman, Operations Director for the ZRF said:

“It’s an honour for the ZRF to have the Lord Mayor visit our work. All the staff and volunteers who have made it happen deserve huge credit as without them this would not be possible.

“We have young girls who have become more confident and gained their FA Level 1 coaching qualifications through the ZRF – the aim is now for them to go on and become role models for the next generation”.

bbc radio manchester 640 360The success of the Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) in Manchester has seen an increased interest from the local media.  Zesh Rehman took time out from his busy schedule to talk with BBC Manchester Radio about the work of the ZRF and his route in becoming the first British Asian to play in the English Premier League. Jacqueline Paine from BBC Manchester Radio met with Zesh on the 22nd June at KD Grammar School.

The ZRF has been working closely with the Secondary School since February and has set up after school clubs for local Primary Schools in the area which currently run three times a week. Year 10 students from KD Grammar are currently part of the ZRF’s ‘On Side’ programme which helps students further develop their knowledge and experience of how to lead sports activities and events.

Zesh Rehman, who currently plays for Thai Premier League champions Muang Thong United, was over in England for a few days in preparation for Pakistan’s 2014 World Cup Qualifier against Bangladesh.

On the day itself the former Bradford City Captain and Fulham star gave an inspiring talk to students before participating in the after school football club.

To listen to the interview click here



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