Blog post: Abdullah Zaman

CPFC and Me: Empowering South Asian Football Dreams.

In this blog, London FA Youth Council & Palace for Life Community Coach Abdullah Zaman shares his passion for coaching and how he is looking to inspire others.

"I’m Abdullah and I’m an 18-year-old football coach. Growing up in South London, you notice that football has a massive influence here. I grew up 5 minutes away from Selhurst Park, so it was inevitable that football was going to be in my life. However, after a while, I lost my love for the game, having realised I wasn’t getting anywhere, which led me to stop playing altogether. However, after being introduced to the Get Involved programme at Palace for Life, my mentor Hazmi Bahrin introduced me to coaching through the programme. The Get Involved programme aims to help those from Asian and Muslim backgrounds be involved in football, providing exclusive sessions for Asians and Muslims. Get Involved helped me get my coaching licenses and have helped countless others get their licenses as well.

Immediately, my love for football reignited.

AbdullahAt aged 14, I started volunteering for the Palace for Life Foundation and saw coaching as more enjoyable than playing. I think I might have the record number of hours for volunteering at Palace for Life!

At aged 16, I got my FA level 1 coaching badge, funded by Palace For Life and now as an 18 year old, I have obtained my UEFA C license. My dream is now to become the first-ever South Asian England Manager.

One moment in my life that has shaped me to who I am today is when I talked at a Palace for Life charity event in front of Patrick Vieira (who was manager at the time) and other notable public figures such as GMB host Susanna Reid and Steve Parish, the CPFC Chairman. I think talking to Patrick Vieira and having a bit of banter with him was one of my favourite moments in football. However, he wasn’t too happy with me when I said I’ll replace the manager on the side-line one day!  Nevertheless, I think from that conversation, I knew I wanted to reach the top of the game as a coach.

Another highlight for me was attending the AIMS (Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme) event at St Georges Park and Hale End academy (Arsenal). I was taught here that there are numerous South Asians in football, and they’re great examples of people who have made it in the game. From meeting Arjan Raikhy of Aston Villa to professional license holder Zesh Rehman, they have inspired me to aim high, and have shown others that South Asians can make it too.

The experience of coaching in the community has taught me that South Asians can face a lot of pressure from their parents to excel in academic studies and not pursue their dreams in sport. Many parents want us to become doctors and economists, but thankfully after a little conversation with my Mum, she let me explore sport and is now supportive of my dream of becoming a professional manager. I think having coaches like me, my friends Akram and Muhammad, and my mentor Hazmi, we can show other young South Asians that they can do what they want to do in football. We provide them with what we can in terms of football, as well as opening pathways to the CPFC Academy and help to inspire South Asian participants to obtain coaching licenses. So, I think having coaches in the community relives the pressure from some parents to purely focus on academic studies, as we are an example of what young south Asian people can achieve in sport.

After reading this, I want you to imagine yourself in the football scene at this top of your game. Whether it being the UCL final, the World cup final. Whether you make it as a coach, a referee or even a kitman, the opportunities in football are limitless. The sky is the limit.

Look at Zidane Iqbal and Zesh Rehman, or Sam Kerr and Manisha Tailor, they’re all examples of South Asians making it in the game.

My advice would be to connect with your local club, start volunteering like myself, try break my record! Go on social media and talk about your work, because there are people who will appreciate your it and take notice.

And remember, football is full of loads of opportunities, all you have to do is take one."