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 center at the University of Bradford together with Bradford City AFC, with the support from Sporting Equals and The UN Global Goals.
The Football for Peace Mesut Özil Center, sponsored by Innaree, will be held at the University of Bradford and will host football and life skills sessions on the Bradford City AFC training ground, providing opportunities for players from the south from Asia; show the power of football in all its forms to contribute positively to the urgent problems of inclusion, inequality and discrimination.
The Bradford Center will be the first as part of a national initiative. Other FfP centers will also co-brand with professional players and clubs, promoting opportunities for members of ethnically diverse communities to fulfill their aspirations by providing pathways to elite soccer and education. There are several clubs in the Premier League and the English Football League that have joined the initiative.
In the UK, ethnically diverse communities have suffered from a lack of professional opportunities and facilities within the football industry. There are over 3 million South Asians in the UK. Despite this, the South Asian diaspora is largely absent at the game, managerial and technical level throughout the soccer world. England manager Gareth Southgate was also quoted recently during South Asia Heritage Month as saying that “football must revisit its exploration approach and create opportunities for British South Asian talent to thrive in the sport.” .
The Football for Peace Mesut Özil Center is working closely with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and will contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the Global Goals to also empower young people to contribute positively to their own communities around sustainable living, well-being, inequality and discrimination. . The centers will also offer workshops for parents, who are a key part of the process, unlocking and reshaping the relationship between the community and the soccer community as a whole.
A special soccer and education award supported by the UN’s SDG Global Goals will also be launched to provide opportunities outside of soccer.
This is the first time that an initiative like this is started specifically for the South Asian community and is well received by the Football Association, which is also sponsoring this together with Innaree (the highest quality organic CBD supplier for sports and health and wellness industry)
Former Premier League footballers have joined the initiative as coaches, including Michael Chopra, Cherno Samba and Hayden Mullins.
This is not the first time that Siddiqi and Özil have joined forces forever.
In 2020, under lockdown, Dr Erkut Sögüt, representing Özil, brought the couple together to deliver 500,000 meals 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 centers and women’s groups in North London while at Arsenal FC.
Mesut Özil says: “It has always amazed me that the South Asian community is only allowed to be a fan of the game, why don’t we see more players or coaches breaking into professional football? I want to support them, give them the opportunity to be successful both on and off the court. I myself am of diverse ethnic origin and understand the challenges. I hope that the Mesut Özil Football for Peace Center 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 a lot, and working with Mesut we want to create a platform that provides a framework within the football pyramid between professional clubs and also our own. community. While it is important to see greater representation in professional sport, it is also vital to recognize the power that soccer can have in communities. Our ongoing engagement with youth and communities also seeks to help reduce the devastating effects of Covid-19, which has also led to a reduction in the amount of sports participation, especially in which the South Asian community participates. “