The very concept of a Muslim or Asian chairman is odd enough. However, 56-year-old Abdul Jaffer has had more than his fair share of ups and downs in his life. So much so that he does not intend to dwell on idiosyncrasies. Here is a man who intends to inject energy, drive, and passion back into the club.
After we exchange pleasantries, Abdul sits back and explains how Islam has inspired him to become a successful and well-respected businessman. He founded the Fleet Recruitment services empire – despite having to cope with countless family bereavements since the age of 10, and he also finds the time to run his three nursing homes.
“My father passed away when I was just 10 years old. That was four years before I came to the UK from Kenya in 1964”, said Abdul. “It was also a very sad time in my life when my brothers passed away and then my mother. Having a united family, and believing in God, kept my morale high. I have coped by having faith in Allah and devoting a lot of time to working hard in developing my business. I originally did not have any money so life was very tough. But now I want to give something back to the community.”
Abdul, dressed in the regulatory board attire of a dark suit and AFC Bournemouth red tie, speaks passionately about the club, although he is under no illusions about the task ahead.
“It is a very tall order to take on. I believe the club is going through a phase where financially it has been very very difficult to run the club,” explains Abdul. “We’ve been fire fighting all the time. However, the land towards the east of the stadium will be redeveloped to provide affordable housing. There is a further development area to the south of the stadium where we have been given planning permission to build a hotel. There is also a restaurant in the stadium that we would like to buy back. So although it will be difficult, there is room for optimism.”
Abdul feels it is imperative to bring back unity, and to have people who have drive, passion, enthusiasm and honesty. He said: “If we can bring all that back to the club again, and give everyone a buzz, that would be great. The club has a lot of ambition but we lack finance. We would like to find an investor or investors to help me get us into the Championship.”
Abdul feels the football world can, and should, attract more Muslims and Asians at boardroom and player level. He said: “We need more younger Muslims and Asians taking part in football. We also need more Asian scouts to find these people. I would also like to see more Asian businessmen take an interest in football and promote themselves and their companies with a view to joining the board. There should be Asian professionals and businessmen interested in joining clubs like Bournemouth.”
Asked about his future, Abdul said: “I think a lot depends on how we progress. We could get a consortium or one particular Asian/ Indian or Muslim investor who then wants to join the new board so it might depend on them. I think one thing you have to remember is continuation. We’ve operated very much as a team, the board has been a team and we hope to carry that on. The idea of bringing new people onto the board is that we become stronger.”
Abdul insists he is very much a family man. He said: “My 20-year-old son Adam is a good boy. I make sure I spend as much time with him as possible. He supports Bournemouth and Manchester United. We go to mosque whenever we can, but the nearest one is 45 minutes away in Porstmouth. But we go when we can, and in Ramadan we offer our services every year, we like to help out as much as we can. My wife Rehana also likes football, although the extended family support teams like Liverpool and Leeds.”
As chairman of AFC Bournemouth, Abdul insists he would welcome Islamic and mainstream charities such as Islamic relief and cancer research UK to AFC Bournemouth and help them as much as he can. He said: “AFC Bournemouth have helped several charities in some way or another. I personally help Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Wessex Jamaat and mainstream charities – so yes I would welcome charities, Muslim or non Muslim.”
Abdul feels faith will hold him in good stead in the world of football: “The more you give to others, the more god gives you. People are then nicer and kinder. The kinder I was to others, the more respect I got. This has always been my philosophy from the start. The people at this football club trust me and I trust them. I have passion, honesty, sincerity and integrity for the job.”
When asked about who he would like as the new manager, Abdul says he is looking for somebody who has drive, enthusiasm, determination and can communicate on a regular basis with the board so they can support him to the hilt.
“We may go with a player-manager, but we will keep our options open. Everyone has an opinion about who we should appoint and hopefully everybody will support us. We have been inundated with replies. Having been in the recruitment business, there will be a selection process of how we will recruit.”
When asked if former Bournemouth, Liverpool and England star Jamie Redknapp could be tempted to take on the role, it was clear; Redknapp is someone who Abdul admires. He said: “Jamie used to play for us and we put him on the map. It is my ambition for Jamie to be the future of this club and an ambassador.”
So that’s Abdul Jaffer: a Muslim trying to bring a bit of order to AFC Bournemouth. Abdul Jaffer’s air of serene detachment will only bring the club success – and the Muslim and Asian community should support Abdul’s venture in whatever way they can.