Asians in football

Club Website editor Dan Pope takes a look at the issue of the under-representation of Asians in British football.

Every weekend, parks and playing fields across the UK play host to a mass celebration of our national sport.

Like no other social vehicle, football at grassroots level football brings together people from all walks of life, cultures, races and backgrounds. It is only as you move up the football ladder that things start to change, particularly if you are a member of the Asian community.

At the time of the 2001 census there were over 2.3 million Asian or British Asian people living in the UK, some 4% of the total population. Hundreds of thousands of Asian footballers turn out to play and watch football across the country every week, yet only seven British Asian players earn their living in the professional game today.

This statistic speaks for itself, as do the results of a survey conducted by the Commission for Racial Equality in 2004, which identified just 10 Asian players at Premier League academies - just 0.8 per cent of the total figure. In the five years that have elapsed since, this figure is not believed to have changed greatly.

So what are the main reasons behind this massive under-representation of British Asians in the professional game?

Piarra Powar, Director of Kick It Out - football's equality and inclusion campaign - told Club Website: "The reasons are quite complicated but, at the same time, there are some very simple issues at the core of that reasoning. Unfortunately it is about stereotyping. We are all stereotyped. We are all perceived in a certain way."

Popular myths concerning Asian footballers include a belief that they like cricket more than football and that they are not strong enough to compete in the professional game.

Zesh Rehman, one of the seven current British Asian professionals, had to deal with these sterotypes when he was growing up. "I faced a lot of them," he told Club Website. "Things such as [Asian kids] being scared of the weather or having the wrong diet. I don't know where they come from but the more people hear them, they just jump on the bandwagon and assume they are right. It's creating another hurdle that just shouldn't be there."


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