An aspiring footballer has paid tribute to one of Calderdale’s biggest activity schemes after securing a dream move to the USA.
Former Halifax Town youth player and Pakistan under-19 international Khurram Shazad, now 20, said that playing in the Midnight League turned his life around.
He has been offered a four-year soccer scholarship at Young-Harris University in Atlanta, seven years after he began his career playing with his friends in the Midnight League, a free football programme for youngsters aged 12-19.
Now attacking midfielder Khurram is supporting the Midnight League’s bid to win Best Sport Project in the National Lottery awards.
Khurram said if it wasn’t for the league, his life could have gone in a different direction.
“The Midnight League is such an important project – there’s nothing like it anywhere else in Yorkshire,” he said.
“It’s changed my life. If it wasn’t for the Midnight League then I would probably have been on the streets at night with my friends but instead I was playing football.
“It really helped me to take the right path in life and it can do the same for others too.”
After playing in league former Halifax High pupil Khurram was one of 600 young Asian footballers to be invited for a trial with Sheffield Wednesday.
He was then asked to play for Pakistan in an under-19 Asian tournament aged just 16.
“Without the Midnight League I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. It offered me a great chance, something to look forward to and the opportunity to meet lots of new people, and now I’m supporting it.”
Scheme manager Chris Shiroda said he hoped people voted the Midnight League to get the £2,000 grant.
“Getting to the semi-finals on the Best Sport Project awards is a great achievement, but now is the time to go one better.
“Midnight League started out as a small scheme which gave young people with nowhere to go on an evening something to do but since then it has touched thousands of lives and changing them for the better.”
To vote for the Midnight League, visit: www.lottery goodcauses.org.uk/awards
Voting closes at midday on Monday.