11 January 2017
Congratulations to Women in Football ambassador Annie Zaidi, who was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for her services in football coaching. Annie received the news after a recent trip on behalf of the British High Commissioner to Malaysia as part of the Women of the Future programme.
Annie now takes up her story:
I was kindly invited to Malaysia as the guest of The British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadle, who first met me on stage giving me the Asian Women Award 2015 Sport category. On the night we formed a beautiful friendship. Despite being on the other side of the world, Miss Treadle always kept a close eye on my development as a coach via Twitter. When I won the Sunday Times/Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Hellen Rollason award for inspiration in 2015 - thanks to Women in Football nominating me - I made the Malaysian press, in particular their sports news, as it was such big news, especially in a Muslim country, seeing someone that resembles them wining such a prestigious award on an international stage.
Miss Treadle informed me about the hype around me winning SWOTY, and, me being me, joked about how I should come to Malaysia & do some coaching sessions. Well my joke became a reality on November 19th 2016. I was part of the Women of the Future (WoF) programme, having won the Asian Women Award (AWA).
There was a group of inspirational and successful women who were part of the WoF, which became #MalaysiaDelegation2016 for a week. The visit involved us seeing Kuala Lumpur not from a tourist perspective but from a professional one, so we could see & experience KL holistically.
I still cannot believe i was invited on such a prestigious trip & what made the trip more beautiful were the women delegation as they all individually inspired me listening to the trials & tribulations they experience in their field which gave me the reassurance to keep going, similar to how Women in Football are with me.
I learnt a lot from this trip both personally & professionally but the key thing that is instilled in me the power & the importance of having a strong network of inspirational supportive ambitious people, who are willing to support you, be honest with you but mainly cheer you on from the sideline ... in my language your own coaching backroom staff, who all have different roles, responsibilities & personal goals, but they share your vision of being successful and winning the Champions League or the World Cup.
Day 1 Standing amongst some strong inspirational successful women representing Great Britain, chilling on the roof top of British High Commissioner office in Kuala Lumpa
(Day 1) We visited the Rohingya Refugee School, for some it’s even a place they have called home. These women & children are 'Stateless' meaning they have no identity which means they have no access to medical, education or state funding, therefore they are a hidden community in Kuala Lumpa. Some of these women's husband were arrested on arrival & have been put in detention centres across Malaysia not knowing of their exact whereabouts. Therefore these young mothers have to fend for themselves. Some sadly go into prostitution, whilst others do cash in hand work. The school we visited is solely dependent on volunteers who try and help them as much as possible. To keep this school/home going it costs 1600MYR a week but it gives a sense of belonging to both the mothers & their children. To the children it not only provides them with education, but also a bit of normality of being a young child exploring the world with innocence despite having this dreadful experience of life at such a young age. It was heart breaking to see the pain in the eyes of these women & children. They were physically present but psychologically they were lost souls. It broke my heart to see & listen to their stories of struggle but trying to provide hope through education.
Annie (centre right white blouse and blue/white head scarf)
Day 2 (am) we had a tour of ASTRO - All Asia Broadcast Centre, was privileged to be asked to be interviewed & feature on the ASTRO sport channel, talking about women in football, the barriers, the difference & similarities between the two countries as well as about my coaching pathway.
Annie (back row second from right)
Day 3 - we had the privilege of visiting Malaysia's Administrative Capital - Putrajaya. The Palace of Justice was so inspirational as some of Malaysia's senior judges were female... Muslims Females. We also made history as we are the 1st ever delegation of WOMEN to visit the Palace of Justice, the gentleman in the centre is the Chief of Justice who told us he is gender blind when he is recruiting candidates to join the legal team. Something we need to to take note of.
Annie (middle row centre, white blouse and blue and white head scarf)
Day 3 (pm) Visited the Cancer Research Centre which is not for profit organisation. Dr Tel (Soo) leads research on breast cancer prevention & she spoke to us about raising awareness against cultural taboos.
Annie (front row centre)
Day 4(am) had privilege of coaching some children from Dignity For Children Sch who are sadly either stateless or live below below the poverty line - it broke my heart listening to these young children harrowing childhood exposure to the sad unfair unjust world they live in. I befriended some of the girls en route to the playing field & they told me how just kicking a football around helps them escape from their reality as kicking the balls makes them feel special & anything is possible. When these young girls were describing how playing football made them feel, I had a lump in my throat & felt a few tears in my eyes as it felt like I was reliving my childhood story of why I fell in love with the beautiful game. The boys being boys & girls being girls were very reluctant to work with each other even though they were class mates, not sure if it cultural or children being children, so me being me partnered them up. After few minutes they worked well, my reason behind this was to educate the boys to say girls can play football and are equal to them on & off the pitch, and for the girls I wanted this method to empower them to realise their equal rights to the boys but also empower them to believe they have are just as important as the boys both on & off the pitch and they can be any one they like.
Day 4 (pm) had the privilege to coach U11 Development Team at a private school. It was such a contrast to the morning session, it's funny how both set of players were the same age, from the same city, but lived so differently, it was one extreme to the next & the common ground they both had was they loved playing football. My aim is to visit again & see if I could unite both groups of children & deliver a training session to show football has no gender, no class, no religion - it's all about realising your potential. These girls thoroughly had fun - they signed my coaching book & in return I was asked to sign their Malaysia & UK flags #ChildRights
Day 5 (am) had the privilege of being invited to lunch with The First Lady, Her Excellency Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor at the official residence of the Prime Minister. This is a photo of women delegates arriving at the residence.
Annie (third from left)
Day 5 (am) had the privilege of being invited to lunch with The First Lady, Her Excellency Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor (the lady holding the letter ’N’ in the turquoise dress) the day was very significant as it was stopping domestic violence & abuse day.
Annie (second row from front, fourth from right)
Day 5 Gala Dinner to launch Women of the Future Global Network - it was such a pleasure spending a week with strong, successful, ambitious, hardworking, humble, genuine, passionate inspirational women representing Great Britain... yes that is me Coach Annie in high heels & a dress!
Annie (fourth from left)
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