Why we set up?
After coming through the ranks at Fulham Football Club and becoming the first British South Asian footballer to play in the English Premier League Zesh Rehman always had an ambition to help more British Asian youngsters follow in his footsteps.
Since he made his first appearance for the Cottagers in 2004 only a handful of other South Asian players have become professionals.
To address this, Zesh launched his own charity, the Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF), which is now working hard to help 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.
Zesh was also aware how the power of football can bring about social change and together with the ZRF they put together a range of football based educational programmes to help tackle other social issues. They now 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.
“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, “ said Rehman.
The ZRF has since accepted that these such problems are not unique to England so they are working to build relationships with communities, football clubs and young people in Asia and beyond to help address the issues on a global scale.
What we do
The Zesh Rehman Foundation has recruited trustees, advisors and staff with extensive knowledge and experience of the football industry, coach and player development and the youth and community sector to ensure our work is cutting edge, relevant and of the highest standard. This initial focus on staff recruitment gives us confidence that our work will not only deliver against our programme objectives, but also embed the programme within the wider football network to offer pathways and progression opportunities for participants. Our portfolio of projects has three distinct strands;
-The first strand of our work will focus on using football as a tool for social change, delivering grass roots projects in the UK that focus on football as a pathway and platform for community cohesion, integration and offer pathways into training and citizenship programmes in marginalised communities and neighbourhoods.
-The second will focus more formally on developing football skills, playing opportunities and pathways into employment in the wider football industry through coaching clinics and soccer schools, coaching courses and careers seminars. Ultimately we will seek to launch an academy focusing on player and official development.
-Recognising the resonance that Zesh Rehman has with the Asian communities not only in the UK but overseas, the Foundation will also seek to build working relationships with communities, football clubs and players in Asia and beyond through skills exchanges, international development work and project partnerships with like-minded organisations.
In delivering projects to deliver against these strands of work, quality assurance, monitoring and evaluation will be at the heart of our work to ensure the best quality support for project participants is available, and that funders and supporters can be sure that their funding is utilised effectively in supporting our aims and objectives.
What we want to achieve
From our work we ultimately want to see the Asian population better represented in football. Not only playing the sport at a professional level but also when it comes to match officials, coaches, administrators, media and even at grounds as supporters.