Bradford defender Rehman aims to encourage British Asian participation
Bradford City captain Zesh Rehman is hoping to help fellow British Asians into football by launching his own foundation in May.
The 26-year-old defender became the first British Asian to play in the Premier League in 2004 when he was at Fulham and wants to inspire others.
“The foundation’s aim will be to raise the aspirations of kids,” Rehman told BBC Asian Network. “It will be to get them to do something positive using the power of football.”
Rehman, who has also played for Brighton, Norwich, Queen’s Park Rangers and Blackpool, knows just how hard it is to make it in the game.
But the Pakistan international says, even if those who join his foundation do not become professional players, the aim is to help them get involved in football in some way or another.
“Hopefully, they’ll see that they can get involved with a football club or in an activity that can encourage them to better themselves in whatever they choose to do,” he added.
“They don’t necessarily have to become footballers as within football there are hundreds of jobs.
“They can become involved at groundsman level, as a kitman, in the finance department or media department. There are lots of opportunities available for them.”
Rehman is an ambassador for anti-racism body Kick It Out and the Football Foundation. And last month he scooped the Professional Footballers Association’s player in the community award for 2010.
“It’s nice to get that bit of recognition,” the Bantams skipper reflected. “But, if I’d won it or not, I would have carried on working in the community and closely with my club to try to engage kids at all levels.”
Bradford City’s joint chairman Mark Lawn believes it is important for young British Asians to have more role models like Rehman but says even that is not a guarantee to attract members of the defender’s community into the game.
“I’m not going to lie to you. It’s been very slow and we haven’t had any intake (of British Asian fans) at all,” he explained. “We got Zesh because of his football ability, not because of his community standing.
“But Zesh is working well in the community and we’ll always be encouraging any community to come in, especially the Asian community because we’re on their doorstep.”