The Asian Football Awards 2013 (AFA), in association with Goals Soccer Centres, will once again be at the heart of English football, the world renowned Wembley Stadium, in a year that The Football Association (FA) celebrates its 150th anniversary. The hosts for the awards evening will be BBC Asian Network presenter Noreen Khan and Sky Sports News presenter Dharmesh Sheth.
The awards promise to be a star-studded event once again – with dignitaries from the world of football as well as a number of high-profile celebrities and footballers. With an anticipated audience of over 500, this year’s event will be a fantastic opportunity to witness inspirational Asians in football, first hand. Last year’s event brought together representatives of clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, QPR, Wolves, Charlton, Liverpool and Blackburn, while this year the event is expecting many more organisations to get involved.
AFA Founder Baljit Rihal opened proceedings at the Houses of Parliament by saying, “This year’s awards promise to be yet another meaningful statement of intent for the Asians in Football cause. We are proud to be able to bring to you a bigger and better awards ceremony, which aims to honour those that are paving the way for Asians in Football. The football organisations have given us greater support and we aim to leverage this by continuing our quest to showcase Asian role models within the UK football industry.”
Other speakers at the launch event included Paul Uppal MP, Sir Rodney Walker (Non-Executive Chairman Goals Soccer Centres), Darren Bailey (Director of Football Governance & Regulation – The FA), Jas Jassal (Inventive Sports), Zesh Rehman Foundation and Khalsa Football Academy. Baljit added, “We are honoured to have guest speakers here today, representing the government, leading football organisations and those that are delivering effective projects in the community.”
The Westminster launch included a large gathering of prominent Asians involved in the Football industry as well as many up and coming football players. Many guests commented on the great networking session with key football industry personnel.
Paul Uppal, MP for Wolverhampton South West, declared: “I am privileged to be able to support the Asian Football Awards and have sponsored the Parliamentary reception today. The Launch in Parliament has showcased the continued success in all aspects of UK football and I have enjoyed welcoming the role models of today as well as tomorrow. I hope that the Awards highlight the growing importance the Asian community play in the professional game, as well as at grassroots level, and serve as an inspiration for others to get involved.”
The Awards see Goals Soccer Centres as their headline sponsor, along with a strong contingent of supporting football organisations including; The FA, Kick It Out, The PFA, Show Racism The Red Card and Sporting Equals.
General Secretary of The Football Association, Alex Horne said: “We are delighted that the Asian Football Awards are returning to Wembley Stadium in The FA’s 150th anniversary year. Our chairman, David Bernstein, spoke highly of the inaugural event in 2012 and we look forward to welcoming the Asian football community back to one of the world’s most iconic stadiums. The end of last year saw English football agree on an inclusion and anti-discrimination action plan, and events like the Asian Football Awards help inspire and unite all levels of the game.”
Gordon Taylor OBE, Chief Executive of The Professional Footballers Association, said, “The PFA are supporters of the Asian Football Awards 2013 and proud to herald the developments of Asians in Football both in the UK and across the globe. The Awards are a celebration of the contribution and achievements of Asian people working across the football industry from grassroots to the highest echelons of the game. We congratulate the nominees in all of the award categories and welcome this opportunity to profile success and achievement.”
The Asian Football Awards’ primary objective is to create an awareness of the positive efforts made by Asians within the UK football industry. It also aims to engage with organisations and individuals to help increase Asian participation levels in the UK. AFA Founder, Baljit Rihal commented, “This is an industry awards – we are not just concerned about increasing Asian participation on the football field. Our aim is also to help make the hierarchies of organisations that govern football more reflective of the society within which we live.”
Roisin Wood, Director for Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion campaign, said, "This is a crucial initiative, which shines a light on some of the positive work undertaken by British Asians at all levels of the game. Kick It Out has long been championing this area and supporting these awards is a natural continuation of this.”
Nominations for the 2013 Awards are now open online with the 15 categories aiming to reward and recognise individuals and organisations across the entire football industry.
The AFA 2013 judging panel includes representatives from The FA, The PFA, Kick It Out – as well as AFA 2012 award winner BBC Sport presenter Manish Bhasin and CEO of International Airlines Group Willie Walsh.
The AFA are also continuing their engagement with grassroots football. Their headline sponsors Goals Soccer Centres will host a nationwide 5aSide tournament throughout May and June – with the winners being presented with The AFA Trophy at the Wembley award ceremony in October. Teams can register on the Goals website: http://www.goalsfootball.co.uk/Football/PromotionAFA.aspx?event=AFA
AFA Founder Baljit Rihal finally on the importance of the awards, "Our vision has constantly been to support the growth of UK Asians in football. Since our inaugural event last year, the media attention and support from all across the industry has been astonishing. I can proudly say that the Asian Football Awards has and will continue to encourage more Asians to get involved in every aspect of the game."