• Monday, May 20, 2024


FA chief Yasir Mirza says football needs more south Asian representation

Yan Dhanda.

Eastern EyeBy: Eastern Eye

ROSS COUNTY midfielder Yan Dhanda stressed the importance of tackling stigma against south Asians to improve ethnic representation at the highest levels of English football.

Dhanda and Birmingham City loanee Brandon Khela made history last Sunday (14) when they helped Ross County beat Scottish football giants Rangers for the first time ever, having lost the previous 24 times they faced each other.

However, while there is representation in the Scotland’s top division, there will be no south Asian player in the English Premier League for the second consecutive season – the first time this has happened in almost 15 years.

“I just think, I’ve said it before that people stereotype [south] Asians to doing certain jobs because they are good at it,” Dhanda told SkySports.

“Me and Brandon have proved that we are good at football as well, and there are others like (Norwich City defender) Danny Batth who is good at football, and there’s lots more coming through from a younger age.

FA chief Yasir Mirza says football needs more south Asian representation
Millie Chandarana

“But I think the stigma around Asian people was stereotyping them to being good at other jobs.”

South Asians make up 10 per cent of the population in England and Wales – the highest of all ethnic minority groups. However, this doesn’t match up when it comes to football, with only 0.3 per cent of professional footballers from a south Asian background.

Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari described it as “the single largest statistical anomaly in English football”.

Currently, there is just one footballer from Britain’s south Asian community playing regularly in the men’s second tier, Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, and one in the Women’s Championship, Blackburn Rovers’ Millie Chandarana.

Yasir Mirza, who was appointed FA director of equality, diversity and inclusion last year, said it remains a long-term goal of the organisation to see more south Asian representation in the English game.

“I think the challenge is quite stark around South Asian representation in the elite game,” Mirza told SkySports at a Football and Faith event at Wembley Stadium ahead of Eid.

“Keeping our foot on the pedal I think is a really, really important job for us. It’s a long-term goal. It’s a long-term aim for us,” she added.

Thanks to the ongoing work of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), there has been an increase in south Asian representation across the leagues this season.

There are 22 professional players with South Asian heritage aged 17 or over in England’s top four leagues, a 29 per cent rise from 17 in 2022-23. In 2021-22, when the PFA began recording this data, there were 16 players.

The PFA launched its Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (AIMS) in 2021 to increase Asian representation in football by delivering workshops, creating a support network for Asian footballers and engaging with clubs about cultural barriers. “The data is encouraging,” said PFA player inclusion executive Riz Rehman. “The figures show an increasing momentum for south Asian players and those seeking pathways within the game.

“Our primary focus will remain on the players as we build on the multiple successes of last year and push forward.

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