Zesh Rehman holds a unique place in football in England, as the first British South Asian to play in the Premier League (or indeed the top-flight of the game at any period in history) when he appeared for Fulham against Liverpool in 2004.
Throughout his career, Birmingham born Zesh has always had a commitment to give back to his community, recognising both his own journey from the backstreets of Aston to play in the world’s biggest professional league, the sacrifices made by his parents and family to help him achieve his dream and the support and opportunities afforded to him through sport at every level. Zesh’s work with the community has led to him being presented with Queens Park Rangers Commitment to the Community Award in 2008, and the PFA Player in the Community Award in 2010. He has also acted as ambassador for the Princes Trust and the anti-racism charities Kick it Out and Show Racism the Read Card.
In 2010 Zesh formally launched the Zesh Rehman Foundation built on principles of community engagement and support for young people, mentoring and role modelling, and using his networks within football to open opportunities across all elements of the industry.
“As a professional footballer who has played in the Premier League, all three divisions in the Football League, the Thai Premier League, Malaysian Super League, Hong Kong Premier League, the Asian Champions League and internationally with Pakistan, I have first-hand knowledge of the force for good that football can be. In particular my journey through football, as a young man then as a professional, has given me the opportunity to build friendships and experience cultures that I may otherwise never have encountered. Football has given me the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures and equipped me with a range of tools and qualifications to meet new challenges and opportunities. My career has also given me an insight and understanding of the role football has to play in inspiring young people, raising aspirations and achievements, and tackling a range of social issues such as racism and educational under-achievement through the work of clubs, community groups and the wider football family.”
“I am also acutely aware of the challenges faced by young people from minority communities in this country, and my responsibilities as a role model. I am often asked to comment on, or actively get involved in, the campaign to raise the presence of under-represented groups across all areas of the game, as players, officials, coaches, administrators, within the media and even at grounds as supporters. It is because of these experiences and responsibilities that I established my Foundation.”
The ZRF works to provide sustainable pathways and opportunities within the football and sports industry, that will have a lasting impact on the ZRF Community; a community inclusive of all demographics.
The ZRF ultimately want to see greater diversity across football and the sports industry, at all levels, from grassroots to elite, from coaching to boardroom.
The ZRF is therefore committed to challenging barriers and ensuring that opportunities are equal for all. We provide and showcase opportunities for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, religion, ability, or gender. We address the above inequalities by facilitating opportunities based around our key pillars of work.
Bringing together the ZRF Community; create a network of opportunities for minoritized groups who are aspiring to work in the football and sports industry.
Supporting those from minoritized groups to get into education and training, and developing their personal, social, and leadership skills.
We will support our community to obtain employment across the football and sports industry.