THE world’s media converged on Bradford (Wednesday October 6) for the launch of the UK’s first Mesut Ozil Development Centre.

The University of Bradford has partnered with Football for Peace and Bradford City AFC to deliver on the programme, which will see teams of youngsters use University football pitches and enrol on a certificated course.

The idea is to use football as a means of promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion and to give young people inspiring role models and skills such as conflict resolution that they can use in later life.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon signed the agreement alongside Football for Peace co-founder and international footballer Kash Siddiqi.

Unfortunately, Ozil couldn’t attend the launch event on Wednesday due to his footballing commitments in Turkey, but he did leave a video message on the big screen for all to see.

However, the German star’s agent, Erkut Sogut, flew in from Turkey to express his delight with being involved in the initiative, alongside his client and good friend Ozil.

Speaking to the Telegraph and Argus at the event, Sogut said: “Me and Mesut have been aware of Football for Peace for a while now and we have engaged before with them.

“Mesut has been to events before with Prince William and other football players, including an event held in London three years ago so he is in touch with them.

“We were thinking together, what more could we do than just attending an event and could we create something together, along with the FA and Football for Peace?

“Starting something unique was something we wanted to happen and because Bradford has such a diversity of people, it was a great place to start the initiative.

“Mesut really wanted for this to happen and he liked the idea, so we intended to push for it.”

Sogut added: “Mesut played in the Premier League and he was aware of how few Asian players there were playing there compared to when he went out in the streets of London and there were so many.

“But it didn’t reflect that in the Premier League, and he was wondering why Asians weren’t getting the same chance as people from other backgrounds.

“So, when the idea of creating this development centre came up, he was intrigued and wanted to help out.

“He’s an immigrant himself and he knows what it means to come up as an immigrant, not in England but in another country like Germany.

“So, that’s why he really wants to support them, to show Asian players that they can achieve a career in football, and now it’s off the ground he’s delighted.”

“He’s fully behind this initiative and for sure, Mesut will come to view it in Bradford some time.”

Despite making up seven percent of the United Kingdom’s population, only 11 British South Asians have played professional football in England.

And one of those is former British Asian footballer and Co-Founder of Football for Peace, Kashif Siddiqi, who also spoke to the Telegraph and Argus on Wednesday about the new initiative.

He said: “It's been a working progress for two years now and it's something I've been extremely passionate about all my life, so to finally get it off the ground is brilliant.

"With an initiative like this, you need that star power to get things kicked off and to get a World Cup winner and someone like Mesut, who when he believes in something, he delivers and that's what this is about- him getting involved in it."

"It's massively important that we've got this initiative underway because it shows the community that we are here and that we care about it.

"I think we've got to do more to give that platform to the next generation and to show the next generation that they are all good enough to be here."

Siddiqi added: "It's amazing that it has kicked off in Bradford too. The penny dropped for me around two years ago when I thought, I'm a South Asian footballer and I must give something back to the community in doing something like this.

"And to be here in the heart of Yorkshire and to get this launched is amazing. Hopefully it's the start of something special.

"Because I was lucky enough to be one of the few South Asian professional footballers, I think it will be key that I can pass my knowledge and understanding down to the younger generation.

"Every obstacle I faced, I'm going to make sure that this is embedded into the system so that the younger generation don't have to face these problems."

Following the event, CEO of Bradford City, Ryan Sparks, also spoke to the Telegraph and Argus.

He said: "I think it's a really wonderful initiative. As a club, we obviously threw our support around it very quickly because we are looking to increase participation in all areas of Bradford and we felt there was an under representation from South Asians playing football in Bradford.

"Our academy is significantly populated by Asian players and players from all kinds of backgrounds, but we want more players coming through from Bradford City and to ensure players see a clear pathway to our academy.

"And to have someone like Mesut Ozil standing shoulder to shoulder with us on that is brilliant, and he's a fantastic role model for a lot of people."

Sparks added: "From our perspective, we've got a wonderful academy that produces excellent players. We have a very strong pathway and we are working to develop that in the future, whether it's through nurturing young talent or to prevent young talent from leaving us too early.

"Since I took over, I've been heavily involved with increasing our levels of scouting across Yorkshire and in areas of Bradford that are heavily populated with South Asians, and this is a wonderful opportunity for us to look at more players.

"The Mesut Ozil Development Centre at the University of Bradford will give us a great opportunity to watch young Asian players and it means that if we find talent there, then those players will be transferred to our academy or signed on for trials.

"The talent is definitely there, so from our perspective it's an amazing opportunity to widen our search."

"It's absolutely a win-win for everyone."