"It tells me there's a reason why young lads are being racist - there's something going on at home that makes it acceptable."


Those are the words of Birmingham-based Saleem Ahmed, a grassroots coach whose team, Sporting FC, has faced racial abuse on two separate occasions this season.

Back in 2017 his son, Nono, delivered an uncompromising message to players and supporters of an opposition club who had abused him and his team mates after a match one month earlier.


Saleem said: "With this team we played a home match and at the end some [of the opposition] were making comments and one said we're going to be like Donald Trump and build a wall. Another one [of my players] got called a p***"."


When the two teams met again the following month Sporting's players had a surprise in store for their rivals.


"Nono scored a cracker of a goal and ran towards the sidelines and lifted his shirt to show everyone a t-shirt he had made which said Say No to Racism," said Saleem.

Saleem, then aged 13, with his t-shirt.


"He said I had a feeling I was going to score. His team mates were really happy and they won the game."


Saleem added: "He didn't even tell me [what he was going to do]. I loved it."


But despite 15-year-old Nono's admirable efforts, the team continue to face abuse.


"From a young age he's played in matches and at times there's been racist comments," said Saleem.


"This season we've had 16 league games and probably had two games where there's been incidents. It's two matches too many."


He added: "When it does happen you have parents on the side shouting that it's wrong for us to complain about it.


"It tells me there's a reason why young lads are being racist - there's something going on at home that makes it acceptable."
Despite the abuse, Saleem has vowed to continue coaching.


"We will talk with our football," he said.


"I only took over as coach last year, I love it. I'm going to stay on."


The team were invited to Birmingham City's match against Leeds United earlier this month, which was dedicated to the work of Kick It Out as part of our Weeks of Action.


The annual initiative raises awareness of Kick It Out's work, recognising both the progress made in English football to tackle discrimination over the last 25 years and the work that still needs to be done.

Stories such as Saleem's, as well as the high-profile incidents that have marred football this season, prove the fight for equality in the game is more important than ever.
If you witness or suffer any discrimination at a football match, from grassroots to the professional game or online, find out how you can report it to Kick It Out here.