UEL honours Canary Wharf Group's Zakir Khan
15 September 2021
From Bangladesh to Britain, Zakir Khan’s impact on communities and the lives of young people is truly remarkable.
Mr Khan is the director of community affairs at Canary Wharf Group, founder of the Bangladesh Football Association UK, Chairman of Sporting Foundation, and an ambassador for West Ham United football club.
On 15 September, Mr Khan added one more accomplishment to the list: an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of East London, given in recognition of his achievements supporting marginalised groups and bringing communities together through sport. Mr Khan received the honour at a ceremony for the University’s School of Education and Communities near the Docklands Campus.
After 30 years of hard work, challenges, obstacles and patience, I’m here now standing before you as director of community affairs at Canary Wharf Group, the largest financial district in Europe. More importantly, here I am today receiving an honorary doctorate. Not bad for an east Londoner, is it?”
Zakir Khan, director of community affairs at Canary Wharf Group and UEL doctorate, said.
Mr Khan was born in Bangladesh in 1971, before immigrating with his family to the UK at the age of four. Mr Khan said he was the victim of racial abuse while growing up, and he told UEL graduates to not let harassment or institutional racism stand in their way.
Mr Khan said, “No matter what happened, I had the peace of mind and knowledge that all the obstacles that I faced, all the chatter, all the name calling, all the doubting, all the undermining - it was just noise in the background.
“It did not define me. It did not change who I am. And, and most importantly, it couldn’t hold me back.”
During his time with the Canary Wharf Group, Mr Khan has been instrumental in bringing together organisations, workers, and residents across Canary Wharf. He has been an advocate for creating training and networking opportunities for people, and celebrating their successes, including running the Canary Wharf Sports Personality of the Year ceremony, and Community Champions Awards.
Mr Khan is passionate about football and how it can be used as a ‘social leveller’, and is the founder of Sporting Bengal United and the Bangladesh Football Association UK.
Globally Mr Khan has used his connections within sport to establish a football academy in Bangladesh which has supported over 6,000 aspiring footballers. Many have gone on to become professional players, including current Bangladeshi captain Topu Barman.
Mr Khan encouraged the graduates to follow their own passion after university. He said, “You can achieve your dreams if you set your heart and mind to it. However, whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come along the way, it’s part of life. But from this disappointment, you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.
“Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen.”
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