Here come the Girls
11 December 2019 | Midlands
TSB Community Partner award winner now transforming the lives of girls
Meet the girls who might one day follow in the footsteps of their footballing heroes, England’s brave Lionesses.
The youngsters are part of the Birmingham Youth Sports Academy, formed by Anwar Khattak who has already been honoured for transforming the opportunities for boys to play football. He received a TSB Community Partner award at last year’s Pride of Birmingham awards after helping thousands of boys get into football as well as providing them with mentoring and educational workshops. Now he hopes to achieve the same success with his girls teams.
BYSA promotes football to keep children and teenagers occupied and away from potential trouble. Today, over 500 boys and girls from the age of seven to 18 take part in the club, which was officially founded as a charity in 2002 as just a kickabout for a dozen youngsters.Since then Anwar and a dedicated team of volunteers have worked with more than 5,000 youngsters from the Small Heath, Alum Rock and Sparkhill areas.
Their girls teams, which launched three years ago, are thriving just as much as the boys. And they hope to defy stereotypes and one day follow in the England’s Lionesses' footsteps. The project started with 15 girls but now over 50 girls attend the free sessions. They are trained by four female coaches who are FA qualified and who volunteer their own time to build up the girls teams. At present the girls are just doing training sessions, but the plan is to set up a girls league in the very near future. Another 50 girls take part in educational programmes with the charity.
Anwar, 37, explained: “I want to give girls the same opportunities as the boys, and invest in their futures. Whether they are successful in sport or education as long as we can help make them the best youth of tomorrow, that’s our motivation. We aim to be a centre of excellence. And who knows, one day some of our girls will go on to become the Lionesses of the future.”Head Coach Amina Begum added: “I work with a fantastic bunch of girls, and it’s a privilege to lead the project. We have spent a lot of time raising awareness in our local community and we are seeing a positive response from both the girls and their parents.”
Earlier this year they visited the FA’s training grounds at St George’s Park, where England’s Lionesses trained ahead of this summer’s World Cup.
Amina said: “We wanted to give them the chance to get the professional footballer experience. It was a rare opportunity for them to see life as a 'Pro Footballer', getting training, eating from the food plan and seeing the health & fitness facilities.
“They got a 90-minute training session by the coaching team who put them through their paces on the same training facilities that the England team would use.”
The academy offer both boys and girls extra tuition classes in core subjects, hold mentoring sessions for the boys with organisations like the British Armed Forces and Royal Navy and even recently held a knife crime course for some of the older students.
And they partnered with TSB to deliver a 12-week Mentoring & Education project earlier this year and also launched a programme to help young people with their school SATs examinations.As Anwar says: “We are about changing lives. It’s more than just sport, we educate, mentor and teach discipline and respect. But the Pride of Birmingham award opened so many doors for us. It’s been an amazing year.”