Mesut Özil has launched a development centre in partnership with the FA to support Bradford’s South Asian footballing community.
The Football For Peace Mesut Özil Centre, led by former British South Asian footballer Kashf Siddiqi, will be hosted at the University of Bradford and will run both football and life skill sessions at Bradford City AFC’s training ground.
The Bradford Centre is the first of its kind, with plans to launch other FfP institutions nationwide. Each centre will be co-branded with professional ballers and clubs, creating opportunities for members of ethnically diverse communities in the hope of providing pathways into elite football and education.
Former Premier League Footballers have joined the initiative as technical directors including Michael Chopra, Cherno Samba and Hayden Mullins. This is no token gesture, Ozil and co are looking to provide sustainable pathways to a community who have been marginalised for far too long.
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, yet this is not represented at all in the footballing pyramid. Something recognised by Özil himself:
“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.”
This is a major move on an important issue that’s been overlooked for far too long.