Annie Zaidi, is not your average British South Asian Muslim woman and is defying stereotypes to do what she loves and what she does best, and that is coaching football.
A qualified level two coach and currently working toward her UEFA B License, Annie is anything but stereotypical and ply’s her trade coaching the under 11s at Leicester City Girls’ Centre of Excellence, in England, with a view to becoming a fully qualified Football Association (FA) elite player coach.
“If you walked past me, I look like your average British South Asian Muslim woman, but that's as far as it goes when it comes to identifying me. I may look like your stereotypical Asian Muslim women because my head is covered by a headscarf, but I am a football coach who lives in her training kit,” she said.
Using football as a tool, Annie has worked hard to break down the "bend it like Beckham" barriers that she has faced throughout her career and was recently awarded the Asian Women Achievement 2015 award in the sports category.
While coaching for eight years Annie, at times, has been ostracised by not only other football coaches and managers, but also by her own Asian Muslim community, who see her as a poor role model. Fortunately, Annie has the fortitude and strength of character to face the knockers and try harder when people tell her that she can’t.
“I approached an organisation to complete my FA level one, but was rejected because I was Asian and they felt it would cause more issues amongst parents and players than recruiting a white British women”, she said.
“I recall one experience (at a match), in which the opposition manager not only refused to shake my hand before and after the game, but throughout the game he kept making sly comments about me”.
All these negative experiences have not dampened her spirit and passion for the game she loves and continues to eat, breathe, sleep and coach football, having recently been invited by Queens Park Rangers (QPR), manager Chris Ramsey, to work with his under 18’s squad.
“The players gave great feedback about my coaching skills and they said I was confident, I knew what I was saying and that I knew the game”.
“Working on the UEFA B course, I know many of the women are better coaches than men, but due to their sex they are often dismissed. We can coach boys just as well, if not better than our male colleagues. Unfortunately football is still very much a male dominated sport and women do not have the status they deserve”.
Annie has a very humble attitude and cannot see what all the fuss is about, however, inspiring other young girls and young women to believe in themselves she thinks is an honour.
Annie believes that not allowing other people’s barriers to become your barriers and never giving up are two of the most important philosophies in her life and she credits her mentor Wallace Hermitt, co-founder of the Black Asian Coaches Association (BACA), for supporting her passion and her potential.
“Football is not just a game, but a powerful tool that helps break down social barriers and create community cohesion,” she said.
Annie has recently studied BA Hons English Literature at Northampton University and went on to study an MA in Community Development & Youth Work Studies at Durham University. Recently completing her Masters she continues to work toward her UEFA B License and educate about the Muslim culture.
Annie Zaidi a female role model in the male-dominated world of football and the first ever South Asian woman to get a level two coaching certificate from the Football Association (FA).
By Paul Brown