Hamara Healthy Living Centre’s chairman Mohammed Iqbal, director Raheem Mohammed, and project lead Arnie Sajad met with some of football greats at the glittering PFA Award’s ceremony at The Lowry, Manchester

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of its’ awards ceremony, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) have launched a new book charting the evolution of the beautiful game over the past five decades.

Along with the story of each and every award winner of the past 50 years, the highly illustrated publication, titled ’50 Years of the PFA Awards’, highlights the progress made in areas such as race, gender and community cohesion.

It also throws a valuable spotlight on some of the individuals and organisations at the forefront of the football industry.

One such charitable organisation featured in the book is the Hamara Healthy Living Centre, which from humble beginnings around 30-years-ago, has supported over 100,000 individuals through their work in Leeds to date.

Ahead of the night’s star-studded anniversary event on 29th August, representatives of Hamara attended the launch event for the book, which has been produced in partnership with leading publisher St James’s House and written by two-time winner of the British Sports Journalist of the Year award, Harry Harris.

Chairman Mohammed Iqbal says: “From its beginnings, when it consisted of two members of staff working in a single office, the Hamara Healthy Living Centre has grown to become the largest ethnic-minority organisation in Leeds’ voluntary and community sector.

“In those early days, the centre worked on a single project to improve the lives of elderly people. It now employs more than 30 staff, working on projects to help children, older people, those with learning disabilities and others in the Leeds area looking for education and training opportunities, as well as delivering healthy living projects.”

Midfield anchors

Hamara is an Urdu term that means “ours”, reflecting the founding principle that the organisation belongs to its community.

Before embarking on any new projects, the team ask local residents what they need. “We have come a long way,” says Project Lead Arnie Sajad.

“We can proudly say that from our flagship building alone, more than 10,000 people from our community access this centre in some way. Hamara has supported more than 100,000 individuals through the work they do city wide’.”

Based in a purpose-built £1.2 million centre in Beeston, the charity now plans to open a further site, which will include a sports hall and community centre.

“We really want to expand on the service that we’re giving Leeds,” says Raheem Mohammad, Interim Director.

“We want to offer so much more to those who are less fortunate and living in deprivation in the area.”

‘The Cockburn Centre’ development

Initial funding for the new sports hall, ‘The Cockburn Centre’ development from the local authority, impressed with the work the Hamara Healthy Living Centre does with girls, older people and adults with learning disabilities, focusing on physical activity.

Football, tennis, cricket and other sports help these groups to stay fit and connected with others – but the current building has reached full capacity.

More than £2 million has now been raised through ten different funders, with £1.6 million still to go. Hamara is in talks with the Football Foundation about further financial support.

“These projects can be challenging, like climbing a mini-Everest,” says Arnie.

“A lot of people in our sector struggle with them because of lack of investment or lack of knowledge, but we have shown that, with perseverance and commitment, we
can succeed.

“I’m a big believer that communities should work together, and that together we are stronger. This building will allow us to bring together a lot of different organisations with the same agenda, which is to try and improve people’s lives.”

The sports hall is set to open late summer 2024, with the aim of improving the wellbeing of residents in Leeds and the wider area through better physical health.

’50 Years of the PFA Awards’, features more than 200 images, is a must-read for all football fans. Including exclusive interviews with some of the greatest names in the sport, past and present, the book highlights the continued, wide-ranging impact of the PFA’s work.