A YOUNG semi-professional footballer is trying to set a good example on and off the pitch in Manningham and beyond.

Mohammad Qasim, 23, has become somewhat of a local hero, certainly to his fellow young Asians, thanks to his goalscoring exploits at Athletico and Campion and his work with and for disadvantaged children within the community.

Discussing his unusual footballing journey first, Qasim said: “I always wanted to make that step up from Sunday League level with Athletico to semi-pro, and I’ve had to learn a lot in a short time at Campion.

“A lot of others at this level have come through academies, whereas I only started playing 11-a-side at 18.”

Campion have hit 36 goals in 11 league games this season, with some impressive strikers at the club.

Qasim enthused: “I’ve learnt loads off the other strikers and they’re all approachable. Aidan Day is your man for advice, and Aidan Kirby has helped me a lot too.

“(Joint-managers) Bicks and Lee (James Bicknell and Lee Ashforth) are class and I have a lot of time for Mitch (coach Marcus Mitchell) too.

“Since the club brought Lee in, he’s put on some great sessions, and when I first started working with him, I used to ask him all the time where I could improve.”

Qasim was in superb form last season, netting 18 times for Campion, but he has failed to replicate that in the last few months.

And he sheepishly admitted to contributing to his own downfall.

He confessed: “I missed our opener, an FA Cup game with Albion, through injury.

“I decided to have my first ever red ball cricket game just beforehand, but I had no spikes on and chased a ball when I was fielding and went over on my ankle.

“Campion were fuming with me and I was angry with myself, because you live for games like a derby with Albion.

“I’ve only played about 90 minutes this season, but I have scored twice, once against Dronfield and then the winner against Rossington Main.”

But Qasim is more than just your average footballer.

He has been involved with the Grosvenor Ground Group since 2010. He was an integral and instrumental member behind the play area built on Lumb Lane in Manningham and the group achieving the Bradford Young Citizen Award in 2011.

The 23-year-old said: “It’s been amazing to be part of the group and the park is basically right on my doorstep.

“When I was growing up it was all derelict. There used to be a school or community centre there decades ago, but it got knocked down and no-one did anything with it.

“It was all broken glass and concrete but we still used to play football there, even though it was dangerous.

“But I was able to get in touch with the group and I did some presentations and we ended up getting thousands of pounds to do it up.

“There’s now goals and a play area there and it’s been totally transformed.”

Asked if he would like to be seen as a role model for young Asians, Qasim said: “That’s the aim.

“You don’t see many Asians from Bradford in football at this level. There’s only me, Tabish Hussain and the Basi brothers that I can think of.

“It’s an area so populated with Asians. They do play as kids and in Sunday League, but you could probably count on your fingers the amount from Bradford at semi-pro level.

“I just want to help push Asian youngsters out of their comfort zone to play at this level or higher.”

But Qasim’s other great passion is education and he explained: “I’m looking to join another youth group, led by Sharat Hussain, and do work with them out of Saint Mary Magdalene Church in Manningham.

“With lockdown, the gap in education is growing, and the disadvantaged are getting left further behind.

“Sharat is looking to get teachers in to do classes and I’m doing my teacher training myself, so I’d like to help out once I’ve passed.

“It’s been hard to do stuff with the kids in the area during the pandemic, other than a few socially-distanced activities.

“But when restrictions were eased last summer, Sharat was able to take them on trips, like up to Ilkley Moor.

“A lot of the kids had not had that before, and had barely ever gone a mile from home, so it was nice.”

At just 23, Qasim’s football and community journey still has a long way to go just yet.