British Football Coach Ahmed Ali is currently a full-time Community Coach and scout at West Bromwich Albion FC, coaching at their Elite Development Centers and within the community. As well as working in the UK with WBA and Staffordshire Football Association, he has also coached abroad as an ‘International Development Coach’ with Cardiff City. UPDATE: Ahmed will be opening up an Academy in Somaliland in March, and BFCN will share his work with an updated article.
Name: Ahmed Ali
Club: WBA Foundation
Role: Community Coach/Scout
UEFA A (Ongoing), UEFA B,
Degree in Sports Coaching & Development
Youth Award & Talent I.D Level 1
What have you been up to?
I’ve had many coaching roles in different parts of the world, including 10 months coaching elite teams in the states before going on a study visit in Spain. During the 2016/2017 season I was coaching Football in China on behalf of Cardiff City FC - a great experience and thoroughly enjoyed coaching in a new environment, experiencing a new language and new players. Most recently I coached in Zimbabwe at a local academy and an orphanage center. It was amazing to see the passion and love people had for football, and how much it meant to them to have a foreign coach. There were many talented young players, with aspirations to play in the English Premier League and to use football to better their lives. As a coach, this is one of the most rewarding things to witness in my opinion. Currently back in England, I have 10 players signed to the WBA academy and 3 players playing professionally in the Football leagues.
Was it your direction to end up where you are?
I initially studied pharmacy at university before realising I wanted to pursue a career in Football coaching. I then decided to switch to a Sports Coaching and Development degree and do my FA coaching badges. Without a doubt, this has been the best decision of my life! It has given me a career that I love and has given me the chance to travel the world. I’m currently enjoying my role at WBA and hope to use the power of football to influence lives around the world.
What’s been the best thing for your personal development
I have had a great coaching journey so far, I’ve had the chance to travel the world and adjust to different cultures which is so important. The best source of development for myself, comes from the coaches I have around me and the players I coach. Every day is a new opportunity to learn and develop and doing something you love, makes it that bit easier.
How did working abroad challenge you compared to the U.K, and could anything more be done to support our coaches?
The challenge of coaching in a different language is something you wouldn’t be exposed to in the UK. This has helped me to “say less” and “observe more” which makes your coaching more effective and significant. You also focus more on your body language and demonstrations; if anything, I’ve improved more as a footballer!!
I believe coaches abroad are being great ambassadors for their F.As but unfortunately, I don’t think the F.As are doing enough to support them whilst they are abroad. Some ways they could start to support more, would be to make all their courses more available/accessible, fund great initiatives such as the ‘British Football Coaches Network’ to help them and monitor British Coaches who are working away – there’s so many abroad and it would be a wasted opportunity to let them slip through the net!
As a BME (Black and Minority Ethnicity) Coach, how is the industry changing to catch up with the 21st Century?
I believe the FA are currently doing a lot more to support BME coaches. They’ve started taking big steps to increase the opportunities for BME coaches, including full time coaching jobs. I have personally received funding to do my UEFA B and UEFA A license course and without the funding, it would have been difficult to pay for the courses. There may not have been many opportunities for BME coaches to prosper in the game before, but at least now there’s some role models such as Chris Houghton, Chris Ramsey and Chris Powell. No matter where you are in the world, I don’t believe that any coach, player or any individual in any walk of life should be judged based on their race.
What perceptions of British Coaches have you met while abroad?
People from around the world are in awe of the premier league, and anywhere you go you will be surrounded by Arsenal, Manchester united and even Aston Villa shirts! Many people see the UK as the land of Football and they have a lot of respect for UK coaches.
What’s next for you?
I’m from a small unrecognised part of the world called Somaliland. My intentions have always been to gain as much knowledge and coaching experiences as possible and set up my own academy there – which will now happen in the next couple of months. The Academy is due to open beginning of March and will be the First ‘professionally’ run academy in the country. We will be looking to deliver football sessions within existing schools, form local clubs at grassroot level and educate youth coaches
Any Inspiration or Advice to share?
One piece of advice I would share with new coaches, would be to use reflection as a tool of development. Through reflection we are consciously and purposefully able to improve our coaching practice. There’s that overused saying of “quality over quantity” and this can also be said for coaching. You could do the same session 100 times and without any reflection there wouldn’t be much improvement. It’s important that at the end of your session, you reflect on what went well, what didn’t and how the session could be improved for next time. This helps you to constantly evolve as a coach and be the best you can be.