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The Whitechapel Wanderer

The Whitechapel Wanderer

Issue 8 Nov / Dec 2004

First Published on November/December 2004

To access the issue page, click here


What is it that motivates a nineteen year old footballer to travel for one and a half hours across London each day to attend training in a town very few people have heard of? Well for Shahed Ahmed this is his job, his livelihood and his passion.

Shahed is one of the very few Muslim footballers in the UK playing professionally for the Coca-Cola League 2, Wycombe Wanderers squad. 


Shahed’s interest in football began fairly casually. “We have a field outside my house where I used to kick a ball about on my own. I got a few friends involved and starting playing football. So my brother said as a joke, why don’t you go and play Sunday League football. So I did. Started playing for a year or two and my manager at the time said that I was talented enough to go all the way and play professional. It eventually became serious for me. So I’ve been playing Sunday League football for three years before I got picked up by a professional team.” 

With football extremely popular among Muslims, it is a shame that Shahed is the only representative of his faith in the League, let alone the team. “I would like to see more Muslims in the game, especially since there are many talented youngsters out there. But hopefully give it a couple of years and you’ll find more of us playing football professionally.” Shahed’s family have been supportive of his decision to pursue a career in football. “There are a lot of families wanting their sons and daughters to be doctors or engineers. Luckily my family, my parents, brothers, and cousins have been encouraging me all the way saying nothing can stop you if you really want it. They are the key to me being here.” 

Education for Shahed is just as, if not more important, than football. “There is a balance. Football is no guarantee. I’ve had that drilled into my head continuously from my parents. I’ve had to carry on with my education. But they’ve said to me that if you really want to do it, we will back you all the way.” During Ramadan, diet and training will have to change for Shahed, but he insists that his club respects his faith and always do the best they can to accommodate his religious obligations. “In terms of fasting, I’ve had no problems with the club. They are going to adapt my training and are willing to work around my needs. There’s always vegetarian food available for me in the canteen. The club respect my independence and are sensitive to my religion. I feel very comfortable being able to talk to them freely about my faith. My contract finishes at the end of this season and I’m hoping for a renewal. I’ve enjoyed playing here and hope that the managers has been pleased with me.” 

Shahed believes his religious upbringing helps him to cope with the pressures of being in the limelight. “My family have said to me that no matter how much football you play, if you don’t pray we are not going to like it. You can be a footballer, you can be rich, but if you don’t ask Allah for it, it will come to mean nothing. I wouldn’t say I was perfect. There’s room for improvement and slowly I’m getting there.” With Islam constantly in the media, Shahed has himself experienced some Islamophobia in and outside of football. “I was in Year 11 when 9/11 happened; two days before my birthday. A lot of the backlash was coming on us. People were saying that it’s the Muslims who are part of it and it’s their fault. It’s natural for people to react. I got a bit at my previous club too, which really affected me. That’s one of the reasons I left. People need to open their eyes a bit and see that that is not what Islam and Muslims are about.” If Shahed gets his contract at Wycombe Wanderers renewed, then he’s happy. But playing more football is what he wants. “I want to play more first team football and gain further experience. Then hopefully do well enough and see where life takes me. I want to improve and become a better player. If I can prove myself here then that will certainly open up a few eyes.” His Bangladeshi roots and British residency, means that he can play for either Bangladesh or England. “I had an offer from Bangladesh to play for the national side, but I would like to play for England since I was born and brought up here. Either way, if you are Muslim, then people expect you to perform; especially if you are in the limelight. I try not to feel the pressure. Pressure does so many things to you and the best way to deal with it is to have no fear. If I’m a role model to young kids then I don’t mind. I love to be a role model. If they feel that that’s what spurs them on to become an athlete, that’s all fine with me.”

An incident occurred a few months ago in Shahed’s life which truly awakened him and made him feel more thankful to Allah for the life and talent he has been blessed with. “Earlier this year our next door neighbour’s father passed away. They were a Muslim family. He was in good condition and the next day we heard that he’d passed away. I actually saw him on his death bed and went to the funeral and saw everything, and it woke me up and made me feel grateful that we wake up each morning. It makes you think a lot. We take life for granted, when we should take each second as it comes and be thankful for it.”
Shahed not only sees his football as a job but as a form of worship too. “There are different ways one can worship, alongside praying or reading Qur’an. Working is a form of worship if done with the correct intention. I’m getting paid for what I do and I am able to pay my Zakat and give money to my parents. This is my job and just because its football, people think differently. They should try not to look at it like that. I need motivation and one thing that motivates me is to prove that I deserve what I have got because I’ve worked hard for it. The only people that can see that are my family.”

Shahed understands his responsibility and knows clearly that any distractions will not only let him down, but most importantly it will hurt his parents, who have sincere trust in their son. “Inshallah if I do become famous then with that arrives many distractions; a lot of worldly things that make you forget who you actually are. That’s where my family comes in and I’ll have to rely on them to keep me on the straight. I’m still young and naïve, but with my family there, they will help me through that.”

Shahed insists upon asking his parents for their blessings before he heads off to a match or training. “I have to kiss my mum and dad before I leave for matches. I always ask my grandmother to make supplication for me. My dad is up every morning for prayer and I can sometimes hear him crying with emotion as he prays for me, and that’s what spurs me on again. If I can’t do it for myself, then at least I’ll do it for my parents.”

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