England’s top football division is likely to welcome a host of new faces over the summer yet one player who has already booked his place in the top flight is Burnley’s very own Waqas Azam.
Following the Clarets’ promotion last weekend, the 17-year-old defender will be one of the very few Asian footballers registered in the Premier League next season.
His agent, Shehneela Ahmed, who became the world’s first Asian female football agent recognised by the FA last year, said she was delighted to see one of her clients progress so quickly in the sport.
Speaking previously, Ms Ahmed had stated that her long term ambition was to increase the number of Asian footballers in the top division and with Burnley’s confirmed promotion; it seems her targets are beginning to be met well ahead of schedule.
She said: “Waqas [Azam] has a great future which lies ahead of him and will be a great role model for Asian youngsters across UK.”
Azam, who was born and raised in Burnley, is just one of Ms Ahmed’s growing list of clients and she says she has enjoyed paving her career path since leaving her last profession.
“It’s a challenge for me but I do look forward to it,” she said.
“To date I have been dealing with hardcore criminals so what can be so difficult when it comes to dealing with footballers, managers and agents. I have to start from somewhere.”
The female football agent added her belief that training programmes across the UK, like the one at Burnley, are currently offering young and aspiring footballers a greater chance of breaking into the professional game.
She said: “One must realise that youth development programmes are an important stepping stone to one day playing professionally.
“Talent alone is no longer enough. Desire and commitment are the most important attributes for young footballers - if you are good enough, you are good enough and you will make it.
“In my last few visits to football clubs and academies, I have seen some great young players, their touch and control is impressive.
“I have enjoyed the fact that they are all so keen to learn and experiment. With myself making my presence, I hope that visits like this further inspires these youngsters to be great.
“I think the best way to motivate young football players is through positive reinforcement, incentives and rewards that motivate them to do the things you want them to do.”
With Waqas Azam making inroads for Asian footballers across the country, and Shehneela Ahmed by his side, the prospect of having more Asian stars compete in England’s top flight in the future could well and truly be a reality.