After spending the summer in Russia rubbing shoulders with the great and good of the game at the FIFA World Cup, UCFB student Aleem Bolkiah continued to build his growing network of football contacts by attending FIFA’s The Best awards in London.

Aleem, BA (Hons) International Football Business student, saw Croatia’s Luka Modric pick up the men’s award and Brazil’s Marta pick up the women’s award, before then spending the evening with some of the biggest names in sport. Here, Aleem tells us in his own words his experience of the night…

“It was truly an honour to attend the awards for the second time. It is not every day you get to attend an event like this so I’m taking every opportunity that I get! The award ceremony was amazing but personally, my favourite moment was the cocktail party before and after the event; this is when I managed to mingle and network with people in the footballing world.

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Aleem: "It was truly an honour to attend the awards for the second time."

“I was able to speak to the heads in their respective fields such as FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and ex-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. I also met former players such as Ronaldo, Phillip Lahm, Roberto Carlos, Edwin van der Sar and many more! I was also able to meet and talk to some players I see week-in-week-out, such as Kylian Mbappe, Mo Salah, Eden Hazard, David De Gea and N’Golo Kante, together with female players Alex Scott and Leah Williamson. Being able to increase my network with people in the football industry is always my main goal. Getting advice from each and every one of them made me believe that if I work hard I can achieve my goals. Some did not know much English but through our love and passion for the game, we still managed to communicate.

“In my opinion, the awards did not always go to the right person. Mo Salah managed to get into the top three in the world but did not make the FIFPro XI. Secondly, the best goalkeeper should have gone to David De Gea, who in my opinion had a better year than Thibaut Courtois. And despite Salah winning it, I believe Gareth Bale’s bicycle kick goal in the Champions League final was far superior!

“My time at UCFB has helped me a lot in understanding how football associations and other governance works on a wider scale and helped me converse with ease and made conversations with the likes of Gareth Southgate and Gianni Infantino much better. From my first year learning football governance, finance and marketing, it enabled me to ask questions with confidence and be able to present myself in a more confident manner than before. This shows that I have progressed and made myself a better person.”

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