In the United Kingdom, about 8% of the population is made up of South Asian people but these figures have not translated into the sporting world of football with many British born Asian players struggling to break into the professional game. The question remains, is there an underlying issue regarding British Asian players?
British Asian players
There are only twelve British Asian players out of 3,700 professionals in England and Wales. As of 2020, only four players have ever played in the top flight. Neil Taylor, Michael Chopra, Hamza Choudhury and Zesh Rehman have all graced the top flight in the hope that many would follow in their footsteps. However, it has not materialised just yet despite there being 3.5 million people from Asian descent in the United Kingdom.
Many believe that there are cultural differences when it comes to British Asians. But this is strictly not true and a wrongful stereotype. There are many young British Asian players who play football for a junior side or a Sunday League team and many believe that it goes much deeper.
In 2018, it was revealed that a British scout from a professional club felt that Asian players prefer to play non-contact sports such as cricket and hockey; with all sports found on new betting apps. However, this is easily classed as systematic racism and based on assumptions rather than a footballer they see before them.
Swansea midfielder Yan Dhanda, who is from Indian heritage, described how he has encountered a lot of racism on his footballing route to the Championship. He stated that he feels that these unjustified and simply barbaric incidents he has suffered only make him want to play his best.
In February 2019, Adil Nabi said that he wanted to be an inspiration to other British Asian footballers, in the same way that Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham had done for black players who managed to shake off racist views by playing football and showcasing what they can do.
Racism in the UK
With the United Kingdom allowing associations such as Football Lads Alliance, who are supported by the vile Tommy Robinson, to exist then there will be more racist incidents up and down the country from the professional game to the grassroots level. In 2019, it was reported that a team in London walked off the pitch accusing the referee of being racist. The coach of the team, Sporting Bengal, also claimed that before the game the referee stated, "Your lot are not winning this".
Alongside this 79% of British Asian footballers at grassroots level have experienced racist abuse.
However, the English FA have highlighted these issues and are hoping to eradicate institutional racism surrounding British Asian players in the game. They plan to include programmes to encourage Asian players to be mentored more who are in the system at clubs. The FA have also extended plans to protect British Asian fans so they are not subject to abuse.
The key fundamentals to take from this is that clubs need to be promoting British Asian players and drop all appalling stereotypes that they feel about Asian players. Although many people in the United Kingdom feel like there is no racism in this country they are wrong and it is inherently true here in the game.
It is clear that British Asian players are interested in the game and despite all the abuse they receive they still want to play football.
To end on a positive note, we have seen two British Asian players feature for the first team of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in Europe this season. Dilan Markanday and Zidane Iqbal both featured for the first team which is fantastic news for British Asian players. Iqbal was the first Pakistani player to play in the Champions League.