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Two inspirational winners from the inaugural Wales Ethnic Diversity Sport Awards

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Athletes, coaches, clubs, and volunteers from ethnically diverse backgrounds who have made an impact in their communities through sport were celebrated at the inaugural Wales Ethnic Diversity Sport Awards (WEDSA) in December.

A first of its kind event in Wales, the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) launched the awards to create the opportunity for these inspiring individuals to be recognised. 

The awards were the vision of Rajma Begum, the National Sports Diversity Manager at the WCVA. She said: “The WEDSA awards are a unique and impactful event recognising the outstanding achievements of athletes, coaches, clubs, community groups and contributors from ethnically diverse backgrounds, who have made remarkable strides in the sporting sector in Wales. 

“The awards serve as a platform that casts a luminous spotlight on these individuals and community groups, allowing them to radiate as inspirational figures and role models within their respective communities.”

Here, we put the spotlight on two of those winners who are at very different stages in their journeys - Steve Khaireh and Eleeza Khan.

Steve Khaireh with his award

Steve Khaireh MBE - Lifetime Achievement Award

Steve Khaireh has been using sport as a tool to empower the youth of Cardiff for more than 50 years.

Generations of young people from Butetown, Grangetown and Riverside have felt the impact of Steve’s work in the community. Some have even gone onto follow in his footsteps and have become youth workers themselves with the tools he has provided. 

A volunteer at Grangetown Boys and Girls Club, Steve delivers projects in the community to provide youngsters and children with the opportunities to engage in sport and other activities.

With hands-on experience of making a difference, his success and expertise is being utilised as a trustee on the board of the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of Wales, helping to shape and guide the work of their club network the length and breadth of Wales.

All this work which has made an impact on ethnically diverse communities in Cardiff saw Steve win WEDSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in December.

 

Steve said: “This honour not only validates the hard work put into these endeavours but also serves as a reminder of the lives touched and the difference made within the community through sports. This recognition fuels my commitment to continue contributing meaningfully to the betterment of society through sports and community engagement.

“What I love about what I do likely encompasses the joy of witnessing personal growth, the thrill of seeing individuals overcome challenges, and the satisfaction of fostering a strong sense of community through sports. 

“As far as finishing is concerned, the nature of impactful work often means that there is always more to be done, more lives to touch, and more progress to pursue. My future plans might include expanding the reach and impact of my work, potentially through developing new programmes, forming partnerships, or creating opportunities for even more individuals within the community to benefit from sports and communal engagement.”

Eleeza Khan with her award alongside two female presenters

Eleeza Khan – Volunteer of the Year

At just 17 years old, Eleeza Khan is already making huge strides in her goal to inspire other young Muslim girls to get involved in sport. 

She wants to be the role model that she never had for other girls like her and is determined to break the stigma that Muslim girls cannot participate in football.

Growing up, Eleeza didn’t think it was possible to become a football referee as there was no one who looked like her, wearing a hijab, that was doing it. But now, alongside her sister, Rosheen, Eleeza became Wales’ first ever female Muslim referee

The sisters, who have earned their coaching badges too, have started leading Foundation for Sport’s female only football sessions to give girls from their community the opportunity to try sport.

If you thought Eleeza couldn’t do any more, you’d be wrong! Not only is she delivering sport as a coach and a referee at grassroots level, but her voice is also being heard as she sits as vice chair on the FAW Youth Council.

Last autumn, Eleeza, alongside her sister, joined Gareth Bale on stage at the UEFA headquarters in Switzerland as Wales were announced as a host nation for Euro 2028. Wearing her hijab with a Wales jersey for the world to see, Eleeza was showing that Muslim girls and football do go together.

All these incredible contributions in sport saw Eleeza take home the Volunteer of the Year Award at WEDSA’s inaugural ceremony.

Eleeza said: “Winning the WEDSA award was such a special moment as I felt recognised as a young person, trying to make an impact on the sports scene in Wales. It was the perfect way to end such a successful year.

“I am one of the few hijabi women on the Welsh sports scene providing a voice and services to girls who look like me who often feel underrepresented. I would like to see more women and girls from ethnic minorities thrive in sports and the taboo around us playing sports removed, both internally and externally.”

This year, Foundation for Sports Coaching will be holding women’s only midnight sport sessions at the Sport Wales National Centre during Ramadan where Eleeza will be coaching.

With the difference Eleeza is already making in her short time coaching and volunteering, in another 50 years, she could be following in Steve’s footsteps and picking up the Lifetime Achievement award herself, too!

Who won the other WEDSA Awards?

Here is the list of winners at the WEDSA Awards:

  • Lifetime Achievement – Steve Khaireh
  • Volunteer of the Year – Eleeza Khan
  • Personality of the Year – Jalal Goni
  • Sportswoman of the Year – Funmi Oduwaiye
  • Sportsman of the Year – Curtis Hutson
  • Inspiring Individual of the Year – Rehnaz Khan
  • Young Person of the Year – Sakinah Hussain
  • Community Sport Project – EYST Wales’ BME Sports Project
  • Club of the Year – Urdd Gobaith Cymru
  • Outstanding Contribution to Sport – Nooh Ibrahim
  • Coach of the Year – Nana Baah
  • Inclusive Sport Award – Exiles Together

When will the next WEDSA Awards take place?

There has been no date set for the second WEDSA awards yet, but we expect the event will return in 2025.

Rajma said: “We hope WEDSA will run as bi-annual event and that diversity at local and national awards will be embraced.”

Catch up with everything that happened on the night by following WEDSA on X.

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