Playfinder interview Mesba Ahmed, founder of the London Tigers and visionary for the London Tigers Sports Complex
27 August 2014 • By - Marc Agate
Playfinder.com interview the inspiring Mesba Ahmed, founder and manager behind the success at the London Tigers.
West London Sports Pitches
- Mesba Ahmed opening the new 3G pitch
The London Tigers are a community based charity who help promote sports and encourage participation in a bid to improve society and give opportunities to those who may find it hard to gain them.
Playfinder.com travelled to Southall to Mesba at the London Tigers new state of the art complex in Spikes Bridge Park and would like to take this opportunity to thank him and the staff at London Tigers for such a friendly warm welcome.
How and why did you establish the London Tigers?
At the age of 14 years I was already playing adult football, with very limited opportunities to play in a standardised and regulated junior team. As time passed, there were still limited options for young players in the community to play in junior specific environments, this sparked the inspiration for the London Tigers. I had a vast network within the sports community by the time I wanted to set up the London Tigers and this helped it grow into a viable option. It was amazing the different people I had in my network which at the time I didn’t even realise I had. The development and contacts continued as progress was made overnight in 1997 when Boris Johnson upheld the pledge made by Ken Livingston to become the Patron of London Tigers.
What challenges did you face when establishing the London Tigers?
- Mesba Ahmed (Left) and Jamie Foale (Right)
One challenge that I had to overcome was to change people’s and council’s perceptions on the benefits of sports, and linking this with the youth side. Some council’s didn’t see the link that London Tigers gave between sport and the youth service, so the Tigers was originally only classed as a sports service. This made it very difficult to gain funding and also increase the participation of children as effectively as it could have been done.
What is the barrier to increasing participation within the community?
The biggest barrier to increasing participation in the community is the cost implication. With the correct funding the organisation can help people in the community with social issues benefit effectively from sport.
Do you believe the administrative side in sport is important?
Yes, very important. The development of cricket is a perfect example of how the administrative side has marketed what was perceived as a boring, dull sport into something full of colour, excitement and interest by bringing in 20/20 Cricket. This revolutionised the game and increased
the viewership by a significant amount because it made it fun and exciting.
- London Tigers Cricket visit Lords
Do you think there has been an increase in participation at grassroots within Cricket because of the 20/20 format?
At grass roots people are yet to develop the participation side of the sport, the viewers and supporters for cricket has grown but its participation levels are yet to take off. The London Tigers are one of the only organisations in London proactively promoting the sport to the community and making it an affordable venture.
How would you develop London Tigers further?
If we had the recourses to develop the London Tigers, we would look to add an additional branch and introduce a Centre of Excellence or Academy. We would keep the foundations ensuring that 80% would be the grass roots side with anybody and everybody, all shapes and sizes encouraged to join. But we would still create an academy for the best of the best and give the respect to the elite players at the club. Elite players have already been developed through the London Tigers, such as Marco Tagbajumi who plays for AEL Limassol in Turkey.
What are you doing to bring competitive sport to the London Tigers Complex?
We are implementing youth leagues and introducing youth teams from Under 7’s right up to Under 18’s, prioritising cricket and football.
What was the biggest challenge developing the complex facilities?
- The 11-a-side 3G Astroturf Pitch
I have been blessed… I’ve been extremely blessed and would like to say a big thank you to the London Borough of Ealing for making it all possible. To answer the question, the biggest challenge was the application as we were complete strangers to the borough at that time. The challenge was to make our application stand out above the rest and we did this though our vision and dream of bringing sport to the community. The London Borough of Ealing were so impressed with the vision that they made this a flagship project and helped immensely with the funding, among other contributors.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
The London Tigers complex. An excellent vision and a vast amount of work was put into it and it now provides the communities in Ealing a fantastic affordable sports venue.