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Inspirational FA coach Annie Zaidi to speak at discrimination event


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The Football Association (FA’s) award-winning coach, Annie Zaidi, who was branded “an inspiration” by David Beckham and Les Ferdinand, is set to speak at an event to tackle discrimination in sport at Leeds Beckett University on Friday 9 September.

Annie Zaidi

Annie is a South Asian, Muslim, female football coach working in a predominantly male and white coaching industry as the FA’s new black Asian minority ethnic (BAME) Elite Coach Mentee. In 2015 she won the Helen Rollason Award for inspiration at the Sportswomen of the Year Awards and she has overcome relentless discrimination for chasing her dreams of coaching men’s football.

Annie was the first Muslim woman to get her Level 2 coaching badge within her region from the FA and been named as one of The Independent’s 50 most influential women in sport. Before taking up her role with the FA, Annie coached the Leicester City U11s at the Centre of Excellence. She is currently working towards her UEFA B license and, after this is gained, she has her eyes set on achieving her dreams of being a full-time elite technical coach in the professional men’s game.

Annie explained: “In my talk, I am going to address the lack of female coaches, and lack of female BME coaches in particular, in the professional game. Being a South Asian Muslim girl who wears a head scarf, I have experienced issues which come with people’s perceptions and I have had to overcome obstacles.

“I will be talking about my identity within the professional game whilst pursuing my dream. What I have learnt in 10 years of going through my journey so far, is that you mustn’t allow others’ barriers to become your barriers. People said I couldn’t do it but these are their issues and ignorance; and if I had listened I wouldn’t have achieved so much. It has been a lonely journey but people’s negative comments have spurred me on to go back and jump higher over the many hurdles that continue to be put in front of me whilst pursuing my dream of becoming an excellent elite technical coach.”

Annie Zaidi

The second annual sport and discrimination conference, which will be held at Leeds Beckett’s city centre Rose Bowl building, aims to investigate different forms of discrimination: abuse, stereotyping, prejudice, harassment and exclusion; across a range of sports, drawing on a variety of academic areas including psychology, politics, history and media.

Dr Dan Kilvington, Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett and co-organiser of the conference, said: “The conference aims to bring together academics, campaigners and practitioners who all specialise in examining and challenging racism, sexism, homophobia, disability, and class, within their respective sports and fields.

“We want to ask, what is the nature and extent of discrimination in sport today? How does it affect people’s experience of sport and their wider lives? What are the barriers to change? And how can we best tackle discrimination in the future?

“Discrimination in sport, in all forms, has not yet been beaten. It is fundamental that we understand the causes and consequences of this and learn of potential strategies in which to best challenge these issues - this is the aim of the conference.”

Presenting a keynote speech alongside Annie will be Dr Hayley Fitzgerald, a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett whose research centres around disability, physical education and youth sport. Dr Fitzgerald is the Chair of the UK Disability Sport Coaching, Learning and Leadership Group and has worked for a number of disability sport organisations in Yorkshire.

Sessions are set to focus on topics including BME coach experiences and the ‘Rooney Rule’ - a new policy implemented by the Football League which ensures that at least one BME candidate secures an interview when applying for a coaching roles at a football academy. Annie will speak about her thoughts on this rule and her journey in the male-dominated game.

Dr Kilvington added: “Discrimination in all forms exists on a daily, hourly and secondly basis, in all spheres of life. Sport is no different and, held under the microscope, we are able to see that sport is not based on talent and ability alone, as much people may believe and want it to be.

“Campaign groups such as This Girl Can and the Muslim Women Sports Foundation continue to challenge sexism within sport and raise awareness of pathways into activities. The University context is an excellent place to stage the event as we are able to engage with the speakers' findings, experiences and calls for action.”

For more information contact sportdisc@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.

Earlier this year, Dr Kilvington launched his new book which explores the exclusion of British Asians from football and makes recommendations for achieving equality in the industry.

The book, ‘British Asians, Exclusion and the Football Industry’, presents Dr Kilvington’s extensive new research collected from interviews with players, coaches, scouts, managers, fans, and anti-racist organisations and highlights both historical and current reasons for the exclusion of British Asians from football.

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