Football for Peace (FfP) led by former British South Asian Footballer Kashf Siddiqi and the Football Association (FA) are co-launching the Mesut Özil Development centre at the University of Bradford alongside Bradford City AFC, supported by Sporting Equals and The UN Global Goals.
The Football for Peace Mesut Özil Centre, sponsored by Innaree, will be hosted at the University of Bradford and run football and life skill sessions at Bradford City AFC’s training ground providing opportunity for South Asian players; showcasing the power of football in all its forms to contribute positively to pressing issues of inclusion, inequality and discrimination.
The Bradford Centre will be the first as part of a nationwide initiative. Other FfP Centres, will also be co-branded with professional players and clubs promoting opportunities for members of ethnically diverse communities to be able to fulfil their aspirations by providing pathways into elite football and education. There are a number of Premier League and English Football League clubs who have signed up to the initiative.
In the UK, ethnically diverse communities have suffered from a lack of opportunities and professional facilities within the football industry. There are over 3 million South Asians in the UK. In spite of this, the South Asian diaspora is largely absent at a playing level, administrative and coaching level throughout the football world. England Manager, Gareth Southgate also was recently quoted during South Asian Heritage month saying “football must revisit its approach to scouting and creating opportunities for British South Asian talent to thrive in the sport.”
The Football for Peace Mesut Özil Centre is working closely with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and will be contributing to the UN 2030 Agenda and Global Goals to also upskill youth to contribute positively to their own communities around sustainable living, wellbeing, inequality, and discrimination. The Centres will also provide workshops for parents, who are a key part of the process, unlocking and reshaping the relationship between the community and the football community as a whole.
A special Football and Education Award is also launching supported by the UN SDG Global Goals to provide opportunities outside of football.
This is the first time an initiative like this is kicking off specific for the South Asian community and is welcomed by the Football Association, who are also providing sponsorship toward this alongside Innaree (supplier of the highest quality organic CBD for sport and the health & wellbeing industry)
Former Premier League Footballers have joined the initiative as technical directors including Michael Chopra, Cherno Samba and Hayden Mullins.
This is not the first time Siddiqi and Özil have joined forces for good.
In 2020, under lockdown, Dr. Erkut Sögüt who represents Özil, brought the pair together to deliver 500,000 meals that were going to waste management from Wembley Stadium across the UK. Ozil has become known for his work outside of football, including paying for meals, supporting homeless centres and women’s groups in north London whilst he was at Arsenal FC.
Mesut Özil says: “I have always been surprised why the South Asian Community are only allowed to be fans of the game, why are we not seeing more players or managers breaking into professional football? I want to support them, give them an opportunity to be successful both on and off the pitch. I myself am from an ethnically diverse background and understand the challenges. I hope the Football for Peace Mesut Özil Centre will become the platform they need.”
Kashif Siddiqi, former Pakistan International, Co-Founder of Football for Peace and Football Diplomat says: “Football has given me so much, and working with Mesut we want to create a platform that will provide a framework inside the Football pyramid between professional clubs and also our community. Whilst it is important to see greater representation in professional sport, it is also vital to recognise the power football can have on communities. Our ongoing engagement with young people and communities also seeks to contribute to reducing the devastating effects of Covid-19 which has also led to reducing the amount of sports participation, especially South Asian Community are engaging in.”