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Supporting Communities Through the Beautiful Game - Nahimul Islam

'I am always looking for voluntary positions and ways I can put myself on a platform to influence the game. It is a matter of balancing your time and finding the right opportunities to feed your goals...'

Name, age, where are you based?

Nahimul Islam, 25, London, England

Current and past Roles:

Director, Wapping Youth FC

Director, AIP Sports Academy

London FA Council Member


FA Level 1

FA Level 2 in Talent ID

FA Qualified Referee

What made you want to first get into football and what has your path been like?

Growing up seeing my father be very passionate about football is what started me off at a young age. As I got older, I started playing for teams and my dad would spend his weekends dropping me to football. Coming from an ethnic group that had no professional male footballers many deemed the commitment of going to matches and travelling to away games as unnecessary. At a young age I was aspiring to become the first ever Bangladeshi professional footballer. I mean, who did not want to be a footballer! As years went on and I missed my opportunity to get signed, I did not want to give up. If it was not going to me, it was going to be someone else.

I wanted to break barriers and provide footballing opportunities for everyone. I wanted to live my dream through other people. So, at 18, I set up my own football club and the rest is history. I could have never imagined we will be where we are today! Since then I have coached, refereed, managed, played, and worked behind the scenes voluntarily in using grassroots football to change the lives of members of our community!

Any Major achievements? Any Volunteering? What initiatives are you involved with?

Below are the awards I have won for voluntary services and humanitarian work:

  • Princess Diana Award 2020

  • British Citizen Award for services to Volunteering 2020 (BCAv)

  • National Award for Volunteer of the Year 2020

  • StreetGames Volunteer of the Year Award 2020

  • Tower Hamlets Civic Award for Voluntary achievements 2019

  • Jack Petchey Leader Award for services to Young People 2019

  • Young Londoners Award 2018

  • FA Young Volunteer of the Year 2018

  • London FA Volunteer of the Year 2018

  • Young Person of the Year Award 2013

  • London 2012 Olympic Torch Bearer

All my sports work is voluntary, and it is my way of giving back to our young people. I am involved in various campaigns supporting young people and members of the BAME community as well as disadvantage groups who have little or no access to football.

Tell us more about Wapping Youth FC?

Wapping Youth FC was formed in February 2013 by a group of young adults who wanted to provide something different for the next generation of promising footballers. The club works with professional football clubs to bridge the gap between grassroots and professional football.

Wapping Youth FC is based on the principles of peer education and we believe that for a young person to learn, the learning will be most effective coming from someone who they can relate to. Although football is a practical game, we as a club believe that the theory side to football is as crucial as the practical.

Young people will be undergoing accredited courses and gaining useful qualifications which will help them grow as individuals as well as promising footballers. The club is built on the values of empowering young people in order to acquire the best outcomes. We want to pass on the message that the ‘young people of today are the leaders of tomorrow!’

Since establishing in 2013, we have had an exciting rise in the club membership numbers. Having started off with only 9 players, we now have 100+ registered young people playing football with us. With the rising demand in membership, the club has also decided to introduce many new teams to keep up. We cater for all ages and have now developed a women’s football team for the club. Wapping Youth FC is also affiliated to the London FA, a member London County Saturday Youth Football League, Echo Junior Football League, Essex Alliance league, Hackney Marshes Saturday Youth League and Tower Hamlets Youth League.

In your opinion, how vital is it that community sports teams are continued to be given support, and how valuable or volunteers to the cause?

Community sports is what tackles the issues within our community that contribute towards national problems. Without community sport how can we educate young people, how can we promote healthy lives and how can we tackle obesity. Grassroot sports is not just about working with the best players like academies but we work with people of all abilities, levels and standards.

Community sports is also what initiates the love for a sport within an individual, it is where they can experience sport at first hand and at an affordable cost if not free. With the right support, community sport can impact a whole region and our work clearly has shown that.

Volunteers are imperative in the work we do to keep costs low and make services affordable for the low-income families we work with. Volunteers can drive an organisation to the top and use their expert knowledge to grow any organisation. Our club is only where it is today due to the volunteers we have on board.

Without that I would pack my bags and find a new hobby! Our volunteers help create us an atmosphere that feels like home and our volunteers go above and beyond to showcase their passion. If any of our volunteers are reading this, I want them to know that the work they do is amazing, and they are changing the lives of many young people. Without volunteer’s community sport would nonexistent and grassroots sport would operate like a profitable business!

So, I urge businesses, funders and investors to support us and every other community club out there!

What more could be done to support community initiatives within sporting environments?

There needs to be more in kind supported form businesses and corporate company. My background is in economics and I understand ways to run a social enterprise and have different funding streams. I believe many organisations need to understand ways to build the foundations of their organisation. So many clubs out there do amazing work without a constitution or a bank account.

They could be eligible for so much support if they had the legal aspect in place. Alternatively, the day and age are changing and more technological support needs to be provided to assist clubs in keep up with new data bases and technological improvements in the game to increase their efficiency in delivery.

What experiences have you found to develop you both personally and working within football?

Personally, I have always acquired mentors in the game, networked with individuals and sought guidance from those higher than me. I am always looking for voluntary positions and ways I can put myself on a platform to influence the game. It is a matter of balancing your time and finding the right opportunities to feed your goals. Otherwise, attend as many courses as you can and gain the knowledge!

What are the benefits for coaches and individuals who give their time for grassroots and community programmes?

There are many benefits, but it all depends on finding the right organization. Generally, the experience, knowledge, and friendships you make are second to none. You become part of your community and become embedded into the lives of the children you work with. The satisfaction you would receive if you can even change one person’s lives is the best feeling ever. We have to remember; volunteering starts at home and in our community and the work you do with someone can have a wider impact.

Within Wapping, we host in house CPD’s for staff, provide leadership training, provide uniform, cover the costs of coaching badges and even incentivize the role with awards, vouchers and free gym membership with some of our sponsors. We try and repay you as much as we can and will mentor you so that you can reach your own personal goals. We have regular staff socials to make volunteering as fun and enjoyable as possible.

How’s the future looking, what’s next?

Wapping Youth FC is now working towards becoming a semi-professional club. We aim to do something no club has done in such a short amount of time. We are working towards residing in a stadium, operating 20+ teams for all ages and genders and deliver sessions for those with special educational needs. The club has the backing of the community and engages 40+ volunteers to help us reach our goal. We are more determined than ever and wish to be in a position where we can be inclusive of everyone in the community. We hope to make a difference through football and make an impact on the lives of people with aspirations and dreams.

We are continuing to raise funds from local businesses and community leaders to come on board and become a stake holder within our organisation. Our 40+ volunteers have stepped up to take on roles in the management to help us take our club to the next level. We are currently in regular meetings with landowners to find a suitable venue for us to build our stadium. Our team of coaches are continuing to upskill themselves to ensure we can provide inclusive training for all members of the community. We are now providing projects to tackle community issues and inform everyone that Wapping Youth FC are here to support everyone and anyone. We are more than just a sports club and we will continue to score ‘goals’ in every part of our community.

On a more personal note I will continue to strive to deliver sporting services to our community, our volunteers and our members. I am here to ensure we can have the biggest impact ever on the lives of those that really need us!

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