Leicester coach Annie Zaidi determined to succeed in football

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Last Updated: 11/11/15 5:23pm

The Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration was won by Midlands football coach Annie Zaidi.

Annie Zaidi says her recognition at The Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards has given renewed vigour to her quest to succeed in football.

The FA level 2 coach - the first south Asian female from her area to receive the qualification - received the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration at Friday's ceremony in recognition of her 10-year fight to break into football.

Ipswich-born Zaidi is now head coach at Leicester City's girls' school of excellence but admits it has been a "lonely journey" fraught with external and internal barriers.

"It was amazing to receive the award especially because I feel like I haven't done anything yet," Zaidi told Sky Sports. "I have still got a long way to go but this gives me hope and will keep pushing me to carry on and not throw in the towel because I feel like I have got responsibilities now.

"A lot of young people and especially girls from all communities - more so the BME (Black Minority Ethnic) community - are looking up to me for inspiration. I'm trying to open the door wider for them and if I don't do it now they will have to go through all the rubbish that I went through to get to where I am today.

"I've faced gender barriers, sexism, racism, Islamophobia and even people from my own community - the Asian community - said I shouldn't and couldn't because I don't fit the image."

Coach Annie Zaidi

"I've faced gender barriers, sexism, racism, Islamophobia and even people from my own community - the Asian community - said I shouldn't and couldn't because I don't fit the image. I've had it from left, right and centre and it's been a hard and lonely journey.

"My message to aspiring female coaches is don't let other people's barriers become your barriers. People said I couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't, because I am female, I'm Asian, I wear a headscarf, I'm a Muslim and I don't fit the image.

"I have proved to everyone that those are their barriers, not mine. I've got my dream, I'm focused and I am going to carry on until I get to where I need to get to."

The Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration was won by Midlands football coach Annie Zaidi.

Coventry-based Zaidi also assists during coaching sessions with QPR's U21s on a fortnightly basis as she works towards completing her UEFA B coaching license.

"It's been quite a journey from grassroots football to volunteer coaching in the professional game at QPR," she added.

"The players at QPR respect me in the same way that they respect any other coach. They have no issue with me being a female coach whatsoever."

Annie Zaidi

"The players at QPR respect me in the same way that they respect any other coach. They have no issue with me being a female coach whatsoever.

"People said I could never make it in the professional game because of the image but to go week-in and week-out and be respected as a coach in a professional environment is a dream come true. I want to do more of it and eventually get into the men's game."

You can watch The Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards right now On Demand