Riz Rehman, who is one of the game’s most prominent Asian figures responds to racism incidence. He says it will “hurt” the efforts to bring more players and coaches from ethnic minorities into football.
The 36-year old Riz is a brother to Zesh, the first Asian to play in all top four divisions of the English Pyramid. Additionally, he is the chairman of the Surrey FA’s Inclusion Advisory Group.
Riz has vast experience in-game. He is a former player at Brentford, a qualified coach and an education advisor for the PFA and sits on the Premier League’s flagship “Elite Coach Apprenticeship Scheme.”
Besides, he is a trustee for the Zesh Rehman Foundation. The foundation drives sports participation, community cohesion and social development through football.
In a bid to increase diversity countrywide, Riz will outline the pathways available to the aspiring players and coaches.
However, he acknowledges that the task will not be easy. The kind of online racism experienced by Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham, Paul Pogba and the monkey noises directed at Romelu Lukaku when he scored for Inter Milan at Cagliari on Sunday will make things harder.
He as well responded to how victims of racism acted when they became the subjects. He said, “What I would say is that Lukaku and Rashford have handled their situations very well. They have said the right things. But it is bound to affect them.”
“Football reflects society. Racism is in society.” He said.
Riz who was in Birmingham is concerned at the lack of British Asians involved in football both professionally and at the grassroots level.
A role model at 23
On the other hand, Raya Ahmed is breaking down football barriers in a very different way.
Born in Tooting, the 23-year-old started playing football at school and was good enough to be spotted by a scout from Wimbledon.
She was intimidated by the lack of British Asian players and quit after a single day.
Undeterred, Ahmed gained a degree in sports science. At the same time, she did some coaching for the Zesh Rehman Foundation.
Ahmed has been appointed as a female engagement officer at Palace for Life Foundation, Crystal Palace’s official charity.
“When I got to Wimbledon, what made me not want to continue was lack of confidence. I was 16. You couldn’t see many Asians playing football.” She said.
“Now I am working with females, engaging them. I want to inspire them and get as many females as I can into the game, no matter what their background is, what area they come from or how old they are.”