Born in 1970 to a Pakistani father and Welsh mother, Matthew Syed attended a state school in Reading, UK, leaving at the age of sixteen to focus on table tennis. He taught himself A Levels in the downtime after training, working his way through various text books, before applying to the University of London Examination Board to sit his papers in a small room near King’s Cross along with students doing their re-sits.
Having passed his A Levels, he was accepted by Balliol College, Oxford University to study for a degree in philosophy, politics and economics. He played in the Olympic Games in Barcelona towards the end of his first year at Balliol, and gained a prize-winning First Class degree four months after becoming the British table tennis number one in 1995.
He is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a strong believer that sporting and academic excellence are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, he argues that developing the body and mind provides a powerful synergy – a point well understood by the Ancient Greeks.
Matthew was a co-founder and is a trustee of Greenhouse, a charity that empowers youngsters through sport. Greenhouse currently supports more than 10,000 young people on 31 full-time school programmes. He is also a member of the FA’s High Performance Committee alongside Sir Dave Brailsford and Baroness Campbell, and an ambassador for the PiXL educational foundation.