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University of East London student athletes look to make it to FA Cup Third Round

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High performance scholar Saidou Khan combines career with studies

University of East London high performance scholar Saidou Khan, who signed his first professional contract with Kent-based football team Maidstone United recently, will be looking for a win this weekend as his team play their second round Emirates FA Cup match on Sunday (1 December) against Blackpool.

Whilst playing full-time professional football with Maidstone United, the talented youngster is also finishing off his undergraduate degree in sport, physical education and development at the University of East London. At the age of 23, Saidou has shown that as well as playing as a professional footballer, he can study for a degree at the same time.

Saidou is joined in the Maidstone squad by fellow University of East London students Ibby Akanbi, Clovis Kamdjo and head of football, Ryan Gordon.

Gambian national Saidou, who lives in Clapham, joined Maidstone United after a recommendation from Ryan Gordon, who is both part of the coaching team at Maidstone and also Head of Football at the University of East London.

“Ryan has been a crucial part of my journey so far and I can’t thank him enough,” Saidou said. “He supports me at University with my work, making sure that I have everything I need to succeed.

“Being able to play professional football has always been a goal of mine. I was studying at the University of East London when I got the opportunity to sign for Maidstone United. Having the chance to play for Maidstone and complete my degree is really important.”

Matthew Tansley, Director of Sport at the University of East London, said, “We are proud to see Saidou doing so well and combining his studies with a football career. Our role here at the University is to ensure that our students have the full advantage of our degree courses. We are here to support them with their education and if they have the additional benefit of being able to combine their studies with excelling in their sport, that is an added bonus and proves that our talented students can mix a professional sporting career with continuing their education. We wish Saidou all the best in the FA Cup as well as in his University studies.”

As well as studying at the University of East London, Saidou is part of its high-performance programme. Being part of the programme at the University and playing full time professional football is something he says will help him get to where he wants to be.

As part of the programme, Saidou has access to comprehensive coaching support through team sessions and individual video analysis reviews, unlimited physiotherapy and sports massage, UKSCA-accredited strength and conditioning with private access to the scholar gym, active recovery and yoga, a free gym membership at SportsDock and lifestyle and performance workshops. As a Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) dual-career accredited site, the University can offer tailored support so that talented individuals can play professional sport and get a degree-level education.

“Having access to great facilities and a comprehensive programme means that I can get the best out of myself. I have to make sure that I am always the best version of myself and with access to the strength and conditioning team, sports psychology and the lifestyle workshops I am always both mentally and physically ready,” Saidou added.

Maidstone United, nicknamed the Stones, have gone from strength to strength this season earning themselves well deserved recognition in the Emirates FA Cup after beating Torquay United, who play one league above in the National League, 1–0. The Stones will be travelling to Blackpool on Sunday 1 December to play in the second round, hoping for that all-important win and a place in the third round.

Having joined from Tooting and Mitcham in the summer of 2019, the side currently sit in ninth position in the Vanarama National League South.

“It will be tough but I’m really looking forward to it,” Saidou said. “Every game I give 100 per cent, and this is no different. I’m feeling confident and the team spirit is really high right now, so that will definitely help.”