Former QPR and Fulham defender, Zesh Rehman, has stated: “I want to be the first British Asian to manage in England.”
The former centre back, who has played professional football for Fulham, Queens Park Rangers, Norwich, Bradford and Blackpool aswell as the Pakistan national team, made the statement after being appointed his first managerial job this week after completing his UEFA licences.
However, before competing with the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola in the Premiership, Rehman will have to battle it out on the pitches of Asia as he takes charge of Southern District FC in the Hong Kong Premier League.
Zesh Rehman said: “It’s a good opportunity to give back to a club that I’ve been playing for” after making 40 appearances playing for them since 2017.
I appreciate the trust shown in me and it’s great I can now implement my ideas. I will still play. I’m 37 and there is still life in the legs yet.”
However, the Birmingham-born lower-league standout, has his sights firmly on the English professional divisions and has aired his views on the current game saying race does play a factor on managerial roles.
“Everyone should get an interview on merit,” he says. “I’m not sure that is going to be a long-term solution because it could lead to resentment or ill-feeling.
He feels those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background, known as BAME in football official terms, has often been a difficult one as far as getting into football management in England is concerned.
There are currently only six BAME managers in the top four divisions though people from BAME make up a huge percentage of footballers who have played or are currently playing.
Rehman is well aware he was a role model to young British Asians as a player especially after choosing to play for Pakistan over trying to get into the England team via teen age levels.
“Being visible and having a presence in the game can only lead towards potentially inspiring people that they can emulate the journey,” he says.
Rehman names his idols in management as Steve Coppel who first signed him on loan for Brighton and Hove Albion in 2003, and Chris Coleman who he played for at Fulham and who he describes as a ‘real character.’
Rehman states that even though he had guidance from some ‘great coaches’ he knows how hard of a journey lies ahead.
“If you have any pre-conceived ideas about what you might be up against, then you will struggle. You need to be resilient and be prepared for any negativity that may come your way.”
in 2019, the English Football League addressed the issue of the lack of ethnic minority managers by making it official policyfor all clubs who must interview at least one BAME candidate when needing the services of a first-team manager.