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

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

Kids will be given the opportunity to learn from professional club coaches with the event being delivered by ZRF football coaches who are 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 and Queens Park Rangers to date.

ZRF Founder and former Fulham defender Zesh, who is currently plying his trade in Malaysia with Pahang FA, said: "This event is not a talent identification day or about giving talented Asian footballers the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of scouts from professional clubs. It is about the 100% rather than the 1%.

"I've always been conscious of ensuring all our programmes are representative of the wider community but it is key we deliver targeted programmes to empower under-represented groups to join mainstream teams.

"The Premier League and PFA have been very supportive of our work and without the initial Sidelined-2-Sidelines funding this programme may not have got off the ground."

Premier League clubs Chelsea FC Foundation and the Crystal Palace FC Foundation will also be present on the day to support delivery and promote the different football sessions available to children across South London.

Riz Rehman, Director at the ZRF, said: "Following on from delivering our s2s initiative, we now have a cohort of qualified male and female coaches from a number of different Asian backgrounds including Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Tamil who work at professional clubs across London.

"This event will allow these coaches to showcase their coaching abilities and be advocates within their communities to motivate parents and inspire more younger children to foster a love for the game."

"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."

To find out more about the festival and register your child please click here.


Sidelined-2-Sidelines gave 50 young participants from London an opportunity to gain sport related qualifications, learn from leading coach educators and gain an insight into the football industry by working closely with dedicated mentors. Sidelined-2-Sidelines, funded by the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association, was delivered in association with the Chelsea FC Foundation and QPR in the Community Trust and aimed to increase British Asian representation across grassroots football and within professional club Community Trusts and Foundations.

Mahdieh Pourali: In my own words...

"I have always had a keen interest in sports, whilst playing and volunteering for Muslim Women's Sport Foundation who created the initial opportunity for me to get involved in coaching by sending me on the FA Level 1 course. After gaining my qualification I started coaching Ladies Multi-sport sessions.

I was invited to attend networking events such as the Kick It Out Mentoring Conference in 2013. It was a great event for me as I was able to talk to one of the mentors Rachel Yankey about my coaching aspirations. Until then I was coaching 16- 55 year old ladies and I wanted to experience coaching under 18's in order to distinguish which age group I enjoyed coaching more.

At the same event I was introduced to Zesh Rehman Foundation's Sidelined-2-Sidelines programme and the benefits it could have on my coaching career. After securing a place on the program, I attended the first workshop at QPR's Academy training ground.

The workshops were divided into two parts, the first part was classroom based with the second part being a practical session. Both sections of the workshop were advantageous because we were shown how to incorporate everything we learnt in the classroom into practice. I found the practical aspect of the workshops the most beneficial, especially being taught by experts like Ben Bartlett, Rob Udberg and Nick Levett all of whom were well informed and had gained experience in top premiership clubs. Learning from the best gives you the motivation to soak up as much information as possible.

As part of the programme we were assigned mentors. Initially I did not understand the role of the mentor as I had never had one and was not able to make the most the opportunity. However after discussing it with my mentor (Annie Zaidi), I was able to capitalise on the chance I was given particularly as my mentor and I had gone through similar experiences in different industries, I was able to relate to her.

Alongside attending the S2S workshops, I was actively coaching under 13 boys on Saturday mornings and would try to take what I was learning in every workshop and implement them into my own sessions. Initially I found it difficult as I was not getting the same outcomes as discussed in the workshops but talking about it with my mentor, I realised that it would take time and more practice to be able to deliver the sessions we were learning.

Since joining the S2S programme I have gained my FA Youth Module 1 and FA Level 2 qualifications which have been great personal achievements. I have really enjoyed learning more about the technical side of football, considering the four-corner model when developing players, as well as equipping myself with the skill set to help my team develop their technique and ability.

As the workshops have been continuing and I have been delivering more sessions, I have witnessed the progress in my coaching since joining the S2S programme. Thanks to the support from the team at the ZRF, I have now gained a role within the West Ham United FC Community Sports Trust where I have been delivering sessions within the Girls Programme as well as after-school and half-term clubs.

From where I started 12 months ago to where I am now, I don't believe I would've been able to get this far without the confidence ZRF have shown in me and presenting the opportunity in the first instance. I hope to continue growing as a coach and to develop my technique and skills to be able to help young players reach their potential. Through the S2S programme I have had the privilege of meeting and learning from many great people including experts from within the industry, the coaches that are on a similar path to mine as well as mentors that have shown us that everything is possible."



ZRF coaches line up next to Chelsea FC Foundation coaches

Twenty-five coaches from the Zesh Rehman Foundation’s ‘Sidelined-2-Sidlelines’ programme, joined forces with coaches from the Chelsea FC Foundation to support the delivery of the Chelsea ‘Asian Star’ initiative.

The event is aimed at addressing the lack of Asians in the English game and invites 400 children to the club's start-of-the-art training facility in Surrey on an annual basis to put them through their paces.

The initiative took place for a sixth time earlier this month and there was no lack of interest from the Asian community, with most in attendance coming from a Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani or Sri Lankan heritage.

"The event is demonstrating to the Asian community that opportunities do exist and that they are here at Chelsea, and other clubs as well, but it is also demonstrating to the football world that there is a huge talent base in the Asian community," said Simon Taylor, Head of the Chelsea FC Foundation.

"You look around and you can see that there are some exceptional players out there. The main aim is to give the kids a fun time and to try to get them involved in football at whatever level that their skills allow them to play at.

"It is about breaking down barriers, getting kids into grassroot clubs and providing talent pathways for the better players as well. Hopefully, we are achieving that.”

"Hopefully, in a few years when there is a bigger population of Asian footballers coming through the academy and grassroots system, we won't need a programme like this and then we'll all be very happy," said Taylor.

The 2011 census revealed that Asians made up 7.5%, - or about 4.2 million people - of the population in England, although there are only eight British-born players from this ethnic group with professional contracts in the country's top four professional divisions.

The Chelsea Asian Star day starts by putting British Asian kids at Under-9, U10, U11 and U12 level through their paces with a series of fitness and skill tests before matches take place on the pristine grass surface at Cobham under the watchful eye of the Premier League side's coaches.

The winners of each age group earn a year at Chelsea's Football Development Centres, a step below the club's academy. Those that impress have the chance to make the step up.

The Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF), set up in the name of the former Fulham and Bradford defender, helps to get more Asian coaches and children into the game. The ZRF sent along a number of coaches from its flagship ‘Sidelined-2-Sidelines’ programme, funded by the Premier League and PFA, to the Asian Star event to co-deliver with the Chelsea FC Foundation coaches to gain valuable experience. The ZRF also delivered a short presentation to parents around the importance of ‘parent coach’.

“It was great to see a number of our coaches working closely with the Chelsea coaches to put on a fantastic event.

“We’ve been working closely with the Chelsea FC Foundation for a couple of years now and all the coaches present today have come through a year-long coach education and mentoring programme which we’ve delivered in association with Chelsea.

“The Sidelined-2-Sidelines initiative, coupled with the ‘Asian Star’ event, are two initiatives which other clubs can emulate and we look forward to working closely with our partners at the Premier League and PFA in supporting clubs to bridge the gap in minority communities”, said Riz Rehman, Director at the ZRF.

Alongside providing coaches with the relevant qualifications, the Sidelined-2-Sidlines initiative has also supported coaches to gain employment in coaching and scouting roles with a number of professional clubs including Chelsea, QPR, Fulham and Crystal Palace. The ZRF have also provided on-going mentoring and support to young people and parents who aspire to get into the industry.

Asad Khan, the father of Qasim who won the under 12 age group said: “I think Chelsea have set an example to other clubs in running such an event and I can't speak highly enough in terms of the organization, facilities, coaching standard and ongoing commitment.

“My son has attended on-to-one sessions with the ZRF at the Soccer Schools and they have always provided valuable insight into the steps that parents and kids need to take in order to enjoy all aspects of football.

“I have been particularly impressed with the ZRF's recruitment and training of young coaches who can make a difference at the grass roots level of football, whilst also aligning themselves to professional teams through scouting roles.

On a personal level, any questions or guidance I have sought for my kids has always been forthcoming and that has been hugely appreciated, both by myself and my children.”

The Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) has been delivering its Sidelined-2-Sidelines (S2S) programme since early 2013 following funding from the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association. The programme was delivered in close association with the Chelsea FC Foundation and QPR FC In the Community Trust and supported young participants in their pursuit of becoming suitably qualified coaches and role models to younger generations of children.

Over the last twelve months, the cohort of S2S coaches have engaged over 6000 different children and delivered over 13000 coaching hours across London. Over the next few months, we will be sharing some of the participants stories of their journeys through the S2S programme.

Lawrence Hingley is a full-time student at Kingston University where he is studying Sports Analysis & Coaching, whilst also coaching at grassroots football club Concorde Rangers.

Lawrence Hingley: In my own words…

"I became aware of the Zesh Rehman Foundation “Sidelined-2-Sidelines” project early 2013 and how they were looking to provide support to coaches from under-represented backgrounds. The level of support the ZRF has provided me on my journey as a coach has surpassed any level of expectation I had going into the programme. Since the very first workshop in May, the ZRF has provided monthly workshops which are not only engaging but have also challenged me as a coach. This in large has been down to the personnel the foundation have brought in to deliver these workshops, such as representatives from the FA (Ben Bartlett), Crystal Palace FC (Gary Mulcahey), Fulham FC (Keith Stiles & Nick Levett) & Chelsea FC (Rob Udberg) to name just a few. To be able to interact and pick the brains of some of the countries best coaches would not have have been possible without the help of the foundation.

A particular highlight of my mine so far with the programme has been the chance to visit St George’s Park and attend the FA’s talent ID workshop. Again without the help of the organisation, the thought of being able to grace England’s new training facility would have been unlikely, but thanks to the ZRF for organising the trip it made for a memorable day. The support I have received from Riz Rehman (ZRF Project Manager) has been first class, from helping organise a coaching visit at a professional club in Singapore (thanks to Zesh), providing funding for coaching courses to help further educate me as a coach, to providing the opportunity to gain employment with the QPR trust. Riz has always provided encouragement to further educate yourself as a coach, to work hard and always wants to know how your are progressing as a coach which is fantastic.

During my time on the programme I have not only been able to improve as a coach but I have picked up on various valuable professional skills such as presentation skills and the importance of communication. The vast amount of public speakers from a range of backgrounds not limited to football the ZRF has brought in has left an impact on me and has given me more confidence in these areas. More importantly, since joining the programme I have gained that extra confidence to take a greater role at my local grassroots club by trying to implement some of the things I have learnt from my time on the programme. Examples of this include trying to encourage the older coaches at the club to educate themselves by attending the Youth Award modules and attempting to establish links with coaching companies which emphasis “ball mastery” as key for the development of younger children.

In conclusion I would like to thank the ZRF and in particular Riz Rehman for the continued support and opportunities. As I reflect on the last year and journey I have made as a coach and as a person, I have realised that there is no substitute for hard work and with the support of programmes such as the ZRF anything is possible as long as your work for it".

If you have an interest to become a football coach or get involved with our programmes, please click here.


Prince Choudary (centre) with Zesh Rehman 

The Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) has been delivering its Sidelined-2-Sidelines (S2S) programme since March 2013 following funding from the Premier League and PFA. The programme was delivered in close association with Chelsea and QPR FC and supported 50 young participants in their pursuit of becoming suitably qualified coaches and role models to younger generations of children.

Over the last twelve months, the cohort of S2S coaches have engaged over 6000 different children and delivered over 13000 coaching hours across London. Over the next few months, we will be sharing some of the participants stories of their journeys through the S2S programme.

One of the young participants involved in the programme is Prince Choudary, who since becoming involved has achieved his FA Level 1 & 2 in Coaching, FA Youth Module 1 & 2, as well as, his Safeguarding Children, First Aid and Child Safeguarding Welfare Officer.

In his own words, Prince gives his story on how he got involved.

"I first got involved with the Zesh Rehman Foundation in February 2012 when they started their 'Play The Game' late night session at Canterbury Road in Thornton Heath. I've lived in Thornton Heath all my life and I can honestly say that there was nothing for us young ones to get involved in after Madrassa classes and when the ZRF started on my patch the sessions were packed with young people playing football and having something to do.

"That's the problem in Croydon, there is just not a lot for young people to do and it was no surprise that the London riots kicked of in Croydon as we don't see the investment being made in us. I've had a bit of a rough upbringing, didn't live at home with my parents and got involved with gang violence. But one thing I do love is football and after meeting the ZRF coaches, who like us share similar backgrounds, it was inspiring to see them give their time voluntarily and put on sessions so that everyone in the community and Muslim lads could attend after the Mosque.

"Once the S2S project started and after being encouraged by the ZRF to get into coaching I volunteered at the ZRF project which I attended but then decided to set up my own football team as I wanted to make a difference. At the age of 18 I had set up AC London U21's, and the team is managed and coached by me. Over the last 12 months I have taken over the Play The Game project at Canterbury Road and we now get around fifty young people attend once a week.

"I've also worked closely with a group of S2S coaches to set up ZRF Juniors FC Under 11's and Under 9's who play in the Tandridge Youth League after we successfully got funding from the Football Foundation. Twelve months ago we had nothing set up and now all us coaches are now busy throughout the week delivering sessions to children from as young as 3 years old.

"I recently did my FA Youth Module 2 at Millwall FC with the PFA Coaching Department after the ZRF had organised it for me. It is one of the perks of being involved with the ZRF as they look after the coaches and provide some great opportunities. It was a great experience mingling with the professional players, hearing how they got into football and networking with top quality coaches.

"Meeting Steve Kean was a real highlight for me as he really inspired me to be the best that I could be. I had a very good twenty-minute discussion about coaching, dealing with players and setbacks with him at the QPR event and he kept his doors open for us coaches to watch him coach.

"Overall it has been a fairytale of a year for me and I have enjoyed it very much. Joining the foundation was a welcome change in my life and so far it has been a fantastic experience. It's something that has changed me profoundly. I hope to continue working closely with everyone at the ZRF as we continue our adventure into year two of the project with some big clubs and the backing of the Premier League and PFA".

Riz Rehman, who project manages the S2S programme said: "The foundation was set up for this reason alone. To address the imbalance in the number of British Asians involved within the game, provide opportunities, inspire young people to realise their own potential, support them to get qualified and seek employment opportunities within football.

"Prince has been a great example of this and is someone who is seen as a role model by his peers. He has a great future within community sports and is currently working hard to become a coach within academy football".

If you have an interest to make a difference in the community and get involved as a coach, get in touch with us via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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September Newsletter

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