By Aalia Khan

On a rainy Thursday morning Shapla Football Club officially opened their doors as a recognisable club aiming to provide a platform for young children to come and play football, learn valuable life lessons and increase their confidence and skills.

On 19th February over 100 children along with supporters, partners of the club, members from Bradford City Football club, parents, volunteers and media gathered at BEAP community centre in Manningham to witness the cementing of Shapla.

IMG_2747The event was a success with an incredible turnout and those present were able to watch the children play a game of football, take part in a workshop learning about diversity, equality and inclusion; such workshops will be carried out for the children at every football session, and everybody was given the opportunity to take a tour of the Bradford City Football Club grounds.

Shapla Football Academy has been running for the last year and Abul Qasim, Co-founder of Shapla Football club, explains that “We’ve decided to do the launch now as it has been going on for so long but it has been unnoticed. Some of the kids here are from the Jubodhol organsation but we’ve never got all the kids together from Shapla and Jubodhol. So to get them together on an occasion like this is a test to see where we can go from here. Kick It Out are going to help us get bigger and better facilities for the kids, and today is to show that this is who we are, and who we are working with.”

Kick It Out, a campaigning organisation noticed the brilliant work Shapla were doing and have now joined in partnership with them to help develop it further. Troy Townsend Education and Development Manager at Kick It Out said “I am stunned as there are 100+ children here.  A lot of people have criticised Kick It Out in the past saying that we don’t bring communities together, and the work we have done with the Fans for Diversity and Shapla is here to show it is not true. I think it’s fantastic for the community and at a real good time for Bradford aswel. The main focus now is to make sure that it is not just left here today, to make sure that we continue to have a presence in the community and to make sure that the children notice that we are here.”

Bradford City Football Club also partnered with Shapla, and the Shapla kids have attended games to support the City club. David Dowse, Facilities Manager at Bradford City said “It is absolutely great, and we are delighted that the Kick It Out campaign and West Riding have realised the potential here. It is a short distance from the stadium so hopefully that’s an inspiration for them.”

Anwar Uddin from the Football Supporters Federation and Humayun Islam Co-founder of Shapla Football Club were both thrilled by the events turnout. Uddin said “It is unbelievable, the kids here are all aspiring footballers all with a massive affection towards the game, and what we’ve tried to do here is create a connection between the community and the club. It did exist beforehand but we wanted to make the community aware that there’s a massive club here and if they want to develop as players Shapla have provided the coaching. This will give Shapla the network to develop as an academy.”

Islam also beamed “I am really happy seeing this many kids, it is unbelievable, especially getting them here for 10am. It shows there is a massive need for sports and through Shapla football club we hope to integrate and have more inclusion for kids to be part of football and support their own club.”

Islam believes that “There will be a lot more appetite for football after this launch as kids will see that they don’t want to be on the streets kicking a can, they want to have the opportunity to use facilities like this. We also need to look at improving facilities, getting more coaches involved from the Asian community and making it bigger.”