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How Kicks helped Zaki feel at home with Aston Villa

31 Oct 2019
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Villa Foundation coach came to the UK unable to speak English but is now inspiring other young people as a PL Kicks apprentice

With the Premier League extending its commitment to Premier League Kicks for the next three years, clubs are sharing how the programme is benefiting their local communities.

Aston Villa

There is much more to Premier League Kicks than simply playing football, with a large part of the programme focusing on encouraging integration and breaking down barriers.

Abderezak El Khalifi, or Zaki, came to the United Kingdom from Italy with just his mother and brother, without knowing anyone or being able to speak English.

But that started to change when he began to attend PL Kicks sessions run by the Aston Villa Foundation at Villa Park in 2015.

"The first time he walked through the door he was head down, he was very quiet," says Villa PL Kicks coach Ian Robinson.

Nurturing potential

But the coaches saw potential that they felt could develop, and in 2018, Zaki was encouraged to study for his two-year coaching apprenticeship.

He now works on the Foundation's health and wellbeing programmes and also he helps the next generation of PL Kicks participants at sessions that take place in a part of Birmingham that has many young people who have English as a second language.

"Working for the club means a lot to me. I feel like I am 10 times more confident than I was when I started Kicks," he says.

"The impact that Kicks has had on me has been massive. It's basically the start of my English life.

"I am proud every day because my job is to help other people."

Also in this series

Part 1: How Kenzie and Nick are PL Kicks role models
Part 2: Hamza thriving in Chelsea's PL Kicks family
Part 4: JJ and Fulham breaking down barriers with Kicks
Part 5: Brighton and PL Kicks giving Jaime the confidence to coach

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