In this blog, London FA Volunteers Officer nayim ahmed shares his story in football, from his roots in Tower Hamlets to the impact the murder of George Floyd had on him during his time on the London FA Youth Council.
"I have been working with London FA for the past six months as Football Development Officer for Volunteering and Workforce, as well as being Chair of The FA National Youth Council.
"My journey in football began at the age of 16 when launching a grassroots club in Tower Hamlets, East London, an area with a large South Asian Community. This shaped my understanding of inclusion and ambition to create more inclusive spaces.
"During my playing time and when I was in school, most of the football in Tower Hamlets was coordinated by the Bangladeshi Football Association (BFA). BFA were hugely linked with the local step 5 football club – Sporting Bengal FC and also ran the Tower Hamlets Youth League. This was a great provision and was an opportunity for those from Bangladeshi heritage to participate in football without fear of discrimination or abuse.
"However, as time went on, myself and peers around me strongly felt that it was time to push young players from Tower Hamlets outside of their comfort zone and integrate teams and players with south Asian heritage to other competitions and leagues. Wapping Youth FC was a club for young people run by young people. With the mission being to provide a pathway for players from Tower Hamlets to play football at the highest level nationally. I gained my coaching qualifications and over the years discovered a real passion and love for coaching football. In 2018 I took one step further by taking a bold step to coach professionally. I began Coaching at Arsenal FC and enjoyed three amazing years with the club.
"My purpose remained consistent throughout my career. I wanted to be the leader that I needed as a young person. As a young person I hugely benefitted from youth workers and mentors advocating for my needs, barriers and motivations whilst also providing me a platform in which my voice is amplified. With this drive, I wanted to place myself in a position that I could advocate and amplify the voices of young people, especially those from disadvantaged upbringings and historically underrepresented groups.
"I joined the London FA Youth Council in 2019 and after the murder of George Floyd, As chair of the London FA Youth Council I launched the ‘Racial Equality Consultation’. Seeing the impact of the consultation really fuelled my passion to develop my leadership skills and do everything I can for social justice. I attended the FA Leadership Academy (FALA) and became aware of the FA National Youth Council for the first time. For my learning & development project, I developed a proposal for the Legacy Football League. A unique, innovative and transformative offer for competition football to young footballers in East London. In this time, I also joined the FA National Youth Council as a Community Engagement Lead and continued my youth leadership journey from there."
Do not assume that people know what your life, culture and barriers look like.
"Others around me have found it hugely insightful to find out about the experiences of our parents generation who immigrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka etc and how that directly relates to the pressures they put on the next generation so that they do not need to face similar adversities. Little conversations such as explaining the importance and effects of fasting during Ramadhan help others to understand what they can do to support you in a professional environment"
Make the most of the support around you
"Especially in football, there is a small and close-knit community of leaders from South Asian Heritage. Connecting with them will be super useful. They will be able to understand you and provide you with vital mentoring to thrive and progress in your aspirations."
Step out of your comfort zone
"Always be willing to go above and beyond. Be heard, be seen and always challenge yourself to go one step further. You may face adversities along the way but as a community we need trailblazers that are willing to break down the doors and be pioneers."