Zesh Rehman came through the academy at Fulham and spent ten years playing across all four professional English leagues, with stints at Norwich City, Bradford City and QPR. Now playing for Hong Kong Premier League team Southern, Zesh has spent the last ten years playing for several different teams in the Asian region, and recently graduated from FIFPro’s Online Academy. Now, as he closes in on nearly 500 career games, Zesh shares his experience of studying and why he believes it’s important for players to pursue an education.
Hi Zesh, what made you sign up for FIFPro’s Online Academy?
I’ve always tried to look ahead and prepare for a transition out of the game. In the last 4 years, I’ve made a conscious effort to engage in education by completing all of my coaching badges up to the UEFA Pro Licence and studying for a Sports Management degree, trying to make the most of my time between playing, family and travelling.
I’ve heard about career transitions that didn’t go as smoothly as hoped, which sped up my own process of preparing for the future.
What was it like studying for an online degree ?
The university was very flexible and accommodating; they let me take exams in Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, England and one even in Qatar while on international duty. The course is tailored towards current players and the fact that you could log into lectures at any time was a big attraction for me. It was so easy to catch up if you missed something, and it never felt like a burden. The lecturers were great at making sure they provided everything you needed for the course too. It was a fantastic course to be part of.
How did you stay motivated when studying alone?
As with anything, you need a desire to keep going, but you also need to have a vision of where you want to go. You have to appreciate that it’s going to be challenging, especially when trying to manage your other commitments too. I set up my own business and a foundation during my studies, so I really had to learn how to manage my time and remain focused and organised. I also built resilience through playing football, so I used that experience to see the course through and stay on track. I was quite fortunate to have a strong support network. Shane Birtles from the PFA Charity was very helpful in explaining the course and I’ve had on-going support from Gordon Taylor and everyone at the PFA throughout my career. As a former PFA Player Delegate and Management Committee member, I’m well aware of the outstanding work they do, and other players can tap into those resources at any time if they're struggling too.
What was the best part of the course for you?
The best part was not dropping out after the first semester! It was a bit of wake-up call as I found it difficult, and it made me realise I needed to pull my finger out and get up to speed in terms of what's required. Sticking with it right to the end was a big achievement for me. I also enjoyed studying alongside like-minded sportspeople during the course – we were all in the same boat and pulled each other through. It was such a unique experience to have and they really understood the challenges I was facing, which made the whole journey more manageable.
What’s next for you now you’ve graduated?
I hope to continue playing for as long as possible, and I'll continue to work as an academy coach here, which I've been doing for the last 2 years. I'll also be preparing for when I change jobs - I don't like to use the word retirement as I think that's too heavy. When the time comes to change jobs, hopefully, I've positioned myself well enough to get into another form of employment within the football industry with this degree and my UEFA Pro Licence. When I started playing football my vision was to become the first British Asian professional football player to play in all the leagues, which I did and now I want to set a new target and be the first British Asian coach to be involved in the Premier League or Football League. As far as I know, there aren't any British Asian coaches currently at that level, so that's the next dream to get stuck into.
Find Out MORE
The next FIFPro Online Academy will commence on 1 September 2020 and the application window closes on the 15th March. There are only a limited number of places available and competition is expected to be fierce, so if any current players are interested in applying you can: