British South Asians in football in 2021: Man Utd’s Zidane Iqbal, Spurs’ Dilan Markanday, Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury shine

It’s been a rollercoaster 12 months throughout football, however 2021 may also go down as the largest 12 months for British South Asians in the historical past of the English recreation.

Three Premier League children signed their first skilled offers, taking the variety of British South Asian footballers in England’s high flight as much as 5, with 16 gamers from the neighborhood contracted throughout the divisions final season.

Zidane Iqbal and Dilan Markanday hit the headlines after making their first-team debuts in Europe – for Manchester United and Tottenham, respectively, whereas historical past was additionally made in the Sky Bet Championship, in the FA Cup and at Wembley.

The first South Asian heritage England worldwide was revealed in a 12 months that additionally noticed the expansion of the British South Asian supporters’ motion.

Sky Sports News had it lined from all angles – we glance again at an unforgettable 12 months in 2021 for British South Asians in football…

Raikhy will get the occasion began

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Punjabi Villans co-founder Ricky Cheema mentioned watching teenage British-Punjabi footballer Arjan Raikhy make his Aston Villa debut in opposition to Liverpool in the FA Cup was ‘superb’

The 12 months began with a bang as teenager Arjan Raikhy made a shock debut for Aston Villa in opposition to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the FA Cup third spherical in January.

Villa fielded a youthful line-up after a Covid outbreak pressured their first-team squad and training workers into isolation. Louie Barry scored a shock opener earlier than Villa have been ultimately overwhelmed 4-1, with Raikhy beginning in central midfield.

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As destiny would have it, Villa’s children would earn one other crack at Liverpool on the finish of the season – this time in the FA Youth Cup ultimate. Raikhy was named man of the match as he helped steer Villa to a 2-1 win, turning into the primary British South Asian participant to win the FA Youth Cup since Anwar Uddin with West Ham in 1999.

The 19-year-old signed his skilled contract with the membership forward of the present marketing campaign and is at the moment gaining helpful senior expertise on mortgage at Conference aspect Stockport County.

Kicking-off in February

The following month noticed the launch of Sky Sports’ first-of-its-kind South Asians in Football index web page, aimed toward immediately tackling the neighborhood’s lack of illustration in top-level football by shining a lightweight on these making strides in the sport.

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Hamza Choudhury’s ball-winning capacity made the Leicester City midfielder a nightmare to play in opposition to as a teen, says fellow British South Asian footballer Yan Dhanda

February additionally noticed the PFA introduce the Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme, aimed toward enhancing the expertise of South Asian footballers in any respect ranges of the skilled recreation by making a structured community of help that permits them to thrive.

Danny Batth, Neil Taylor, Otis Khan and Zesh Rehman are among the many senior footballers mentoring students and rising execs, with these gamers, in flip, sharing their academy experiences with their youthful friends.

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But issues turned bitter days later when certainly one of Britain’s highest-profile South Asian footballers, Yan Dhanda, was despatched racist abuse on Instagram after Swansea’s FA Cup fifth-round tie with Manchester City.

The abuse got here as English football our bodies joined forces to ship an open letter to Facebook and Twitter demanding motion, amid elevated ranges of abuse aimed toward footballers and officers on social media. A Facebook spokesperson mentioned the racist abuse directed at Dhanda was “completely unacceptable”.

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Yan Dhanda completely informed Sky Sports News he is grateful for all the messages of help after he was subjected to racist abuse on social media

Dhanda spoke completely to Sky Sports News after the incident to specific his gratitude for the messages of help from throughout the neighborhood. Britain’s first Sikh feminine Member of Parliament, Birmingham Edgbaston MP Preet Kaur Gill, referred to as for higher help for gamers focused by on-line hate.

“Yan Dhanda has been a trailblazer for South Asians in football and I want to see more South Asians at the top of their game, but if that’s to happen we need to deal with the appalling racism they face,” she informed Sky Sports News.

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Sky Football takes a have a look at British South Asians in football

“For years now social media has been a Wild West where anything goes, and that has to change. The tech giants have summarily failed to act when it has been left to them, which is why we need strong powers and penalties in the Online Harms Bill.”

England’s first South Asian participant

Many have waited a long time to see a South Asian heritage footballer play in an England shirt, however many have already got with out realising it.

In March, Sky Sports News helped rewrite historical past by delivering the information that Luton Town nice Ricky Hill is just not solely England’s fourth Black participant, but in addition grew to become the primary British South Asian footballer to signify England at senior degree when he turned out for the nationwide group in the Eighties.

Club legend Hill helped Luton win the previous Second Division in 1982, that includes in greater than 500 video games for the Hatters together with the epic 3-2 victory in opposition to Arsenal in the 1988 League Cup ultimate.

Hill’s mom is Jamaican however his household on his father’s aspect are from India. Hill’s great-grandparents moved to Jamaica from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh shortly after the flip of the twentieth century.

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London Bees academy midfielder Roop Kaur does 1,059 lockdown kick-ups for International Women’s Day in March

The former midfielder’s grandfather, John Hill, was initially named Gurcharan, which was a well-liked Hindu and Punjabi title on the time.

Hill made three worldwide appearances, along with his England debut coming as an alternative in a European Qualifier in opposition to Denmark on September 22, 1982.

Ramadan and Vaisakhi festivities

Ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Sky Sports labored with Birmingham City Women to assist U16s academy participant Layla Banaras launch her Ramadan vitamin information and meal planner.

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Birmingham U16s captain Layla Banaras labored along with her membership to create a devoted vitamin information and meal planner for Ramadan

When Banaras found there have been few assets out there to younger Muslim athletes who have been fasting in the course of the month, she teamed up with Birmingham City and sports activities nutritionist Isobel Cotham to do one thing about it.

The tough-tackling defender, whose position fashions embrace Afghan-origin Denmark worldwide Nadia Nadim, mentioned she additionally hopes to have the ability to encourage ladies who wish to make it in the sport.

“I don’t see many people who look like me, but hopefully I can show them that they can,” Banaras mentioned.

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Bhups and Sunny Singh Gill spoke reside to Sky Sports News on the morning they made English Football League historical past once they change into the primary pair of British South Asians to officiate in the identical Championship recreation

“You don’t see many Muslim women playing football. I hope I can be someone who they can look up to one day and say: ‘Yeah, I can do that’.”

Also in April, Sky Sports News broke the information that Sikh-Punjabi brothers Bhups and Sunny Singh Gill have been making English Football League historical past as the primary pair of British South Asians to officiate in the identical Championship recreation.

The match befell on April 10, 4 days earlier than certainly one of Sikhism’s most necessary festivals, Vaisakhi, which is extensively celebrated throughout India and past.

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Bhups and Sunny Singh GIll made historical past throughout Bristol City vs Nottingham Forest as the primary pair of South Asian match officers to officiate a Championship recreation.

Bhups and Sunny are sons of the primary turbaned Sikh to referee in the English Football League, Jarnail Singh, and have been a part of the officiating quartet for Bristol City’s Championship conflict with Nottingham Forest.

“I always say perception is reality,” former referee Dermot Gallagher informed Sky Sports News.

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Former referee Howard Webb is satisfied Bhups and Sunny Singh Gill could make it to the Premier League

“What people see is what they believe and people seeing Asian boys refereeing or running the line in the Championship, possibly in the Premier League – it sends out the message that you can do this, it’s there if you want it.”

Wembley double

That was adopted in May by Sunderland Sikh-Punjabi twins Amar and Arjun Singh Purewal turning into the primary South Asian brothers to line up in opposition to one another in a Wembley Cup ultimate, as Hebburn Town took on Consett in the FA Vase.

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Twins Amar and Arjun Singh Purewal spoke to Sky Sports News forward of constructing historical past as the primary British South Asian brothers to line up in opposition to one another below the arch in a Wembley Cup ultimate

Arjun led Consett out as captain nevertheless it was Amar who got here away with a winners’ medal, opening the scoring in a 3-2 victory for Hebburn over their North-East rivals.

“To play at Wembley, win, and to go home with the trophy is an absolute dream come true. It’s been one of the best weeks of my life,” Amar informed Sky Sports News.

“It’s a little bittersweet because I’m gutted for my brother, but I’m proud to score at Wembley. Not many South Asians, let alone Sikh boys have done that. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

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Panjab FA supervisor Manraj Singh Sucha appropriately predicted Amar Singh Purewal would rating in opposition to Consett in final season’s FA Vase ultimate

Arjun was devastated to lose however mentioned he was thrilled for his twin brother, including: “There’s a much bigger picture here and that’s giving and showing kids – particularly British South Asian kids – belief that they can also make it in football.

“We want higher illustration at each degree of the sport. Amar and I are decided to play a extra necessary half in this push, beginning at dwelling in the attractive North East.”

Later in the month, Hamza Choudhury grew to become the primary British South Asian to win the FA Cup below the arch at Wembley, approaching as an alternative in Leicester City’s 1-0 win over Chelsea.

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Hamza Choudhury making historical past with Leicester as a British South Asian FA Cup winner must be highlighted and celebrated, the first-ever Muslim member of the FA Council, Yunus Lunat, informed Sky Sports News.

Reacting to Choudhury’s triumph, the first-Muslim member of the FA Council Yunus Lunat informed Sky Sports News: “It’s extremely difficult and challenging for the South Asian community [in football] but when we have role models like this – and this is a huge moment – it really needs to be celebrated, it really needs to be magnified and used as an example to inspire the next generation.

“It tells them that there are alternatives there by doing the suitable issues. Yes, there are challenges however desires might be achieved.

“He is a role model for the whole of the South Asian community. It’s a huge moment, a huge moment in modern-day football.”

English-based duo Marvin Hamilton and Dillon De Silva additionally had a lot to have fun after making their full debuts for Sri Lanka, with each additionally getting their first objectives at senior worldwide degree.

The finish of the season noticed Wales worldwide Neil Taylor depart Aston Villa after three-and-a-half years with the membership. Fellow left-back Mal Benning was additionally on the transfer, becoming a member of Port Vale after greater than 250 appearances throughout six seasons for Mansfield Town.

England youth worldwide goalkeeper Rohan Luthra ended his decade-long affiliation with Crystal Palace to affix Sky Bet Championship aspect Cardiff City.

In the FA Women’s Championship, Simran Jhamat made a historic transfer to Bristol City, with Mille Chandarana making a return to Blackburn after a spell in Italy’s high division, Serie A Feminine.

Southgate on South Asians

South Asian Heritage Month celebrations in the UK reached fever pitch when Sky Sports News completely revealed former Dagenham & Redbridge captain Anwar Uddin was going to change into the primary British South Asian former participant to change into a member of the FA Council.

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Sky Sports News broke the story that Anwar Uddin is turning into the primary British South Asian former footballer in the historical past of the FA Council

Uddin, who’s the primary British-Bangladeshi to play skilled football, heads up the Fans for Diversity marketing campaign and arrange a digital assembly between Gareth Southgate and official Three Lions’ supporters’ group Apna England earlier in the 12 months.

Southgate was praised by the group for listening intently and talking brazenly in the course of the name, with the England boss later acknowledging South Asian communities have been neglected in football, suggesting another method to scouting as one of many measures required to enhance illustration.

“Sometimes the Asian voice has been lost in the anti-discrimination argument,” England supervisor Southgate mentioned, in the ‘Football for Me’ FA video sequence.

“And when you look at the percentages of the population that we’re talking about, it’s high numbers. Frankly, it’s a big talent pool that we’re missing within football. It’s like in any business. If you’re only selecting from a smaller section of the population, then what are you missing?

“We needs to be taking a look at how we scout. Historically, there was a type of unconscious bias, perhaps the notion that some Asian gamers weren’t as athletic, they weren’t as robust [as other players]. That is such a ridiculous generalisation.

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“We’ve obtained to be artistic [with scouting] in stepping into the locations the place a few of these youngsters is perhaps taking part in and inspiring them into broader leagues the place they are often assessed extra simply in opposition to different gamers, to then make that step into the academy system.

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Gareth Southgate welcomed the push for higher Asian illustration throughout football as he appeared alongside Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury and Manchester United starlet Zidane Iqbal in an FA video sequence throughout South Asian Heritage Month

“What I’ve noticed with the England team in recent seasons is that dynamic in terms of the supporters coming up to me has changed a lot, far more Asian people, coming up to me, talking about their pride in the team, talking about the diversity of the team.

“That may solely be much more highly effective if somebody from the Asian neighborhood was in the group as effectively, and we had that higher illustration throughout the board.”

The summer season additionally noticed Preeti Shetty be a part of Brentford as a non-executive director, turning into the one South Asian girl in a Premier League boardroom.

Sky Sports News revealed again in March that Brentford have been taking the uncommon step of promoting for a board member in their bid to change into probably the most inclusive football membership in the nation.

After a fiercely aggressive recruitment course of, Brentford opted to make two ethnically various appointments with Deji Davies and Shetty each becoming a member of the Board forward of the membership’s first season in the Premier League.

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Brentford board member Preeti Shetty tells Sky Sports News she hopes her latest appointment presents South Asian ladies hope that they are often no matter they wish to be.

Brentford chairman Cliff Crown mentioned: “As we went through the process, it became clear that there were many exceptional candidates interested in the role.

“Preeti and Deji made it to the ultimate spherical and after the ultimate interviews we couldn’t select between them. Given they convey totally different abilities, we determined the perfect choice for the way forward for the membership was to nominate them each.”

Ozil vows to help British South Asians in the game

October saw World Cup winner Mesut Ozil add his voice to calls for more opportunities across football for British South Asians.

Fenerbahce star Ozil joined forces with partners including Bradford City, the University of Bradford and the Football Association to open the Mesut Ozil Football for Peace development centre in Bradford.

“I’ve at all times been stunned why the South Asian Community are solely allowed to be followers of the sport,” World Cup winner the previous Arsenal attacking midfielder Ozil mentioned.

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Former striker Emile Heskey talks in regards to the love of football among the many South Asian neighborhood in his hometown Leicester, and the way gamers like Hamza Choudhury can encourage the following technology

“Why are we not seeing more players or managers breaking into professional football? I want to promote them, give them an opportunity to be successful both on and off the pitch.

“I personally am from an ethnically various background and perceive the challenges. I hope the Football for Peace Mesut Ozil Centre will change into the platform they want.”

Markanday makes Spurs debut

Later that month, Spurs’ Dilan Markanday made a trailblazing look in the Europa Conference League, coming off the bench in opposition to Vitesse Arnhem to change into the primary British South Asian participant in Tottenham’s 139-year historical past.

Markanday’s achievement has rightly been celebrated as a big second for the participant, the membership and the neighborhood, however the 20-year-old Barnet-born attacking midfielder doesn’t wish to cease there.

“I hope more and more come through and I am the first of many,” he mentioned.

“I hope that plenty of British Asians make that step, consider in themselves, again themselves and might come by and present what they’ll do.

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Charlton Women assistant Riteesh Mishra is proud to signify British South Asians in football and says he desires to see extra coaches from the neighborhood on the high finish of the sport

“I hope they all see it and like it and are inspired by it, I hope they keep supporting me, following me and hopefully one of those watching will go on and do it themselves.

“The dream is to play for Tottenham for the following 15 years, taking part in each recreation, however clearly I do know issues may not work out and there are going to be ups and downs. Being across the first group has made me need it much more. It has made me hungry and I wish to be in that setting on daily basis for the following 15 years.”

Winter hotter

The celebrations continued into November with the Punjabi Rams supporters’ group stepping in to change into a shirt sleeve sponsor in a landmark cope with Derby County Women. The Punjabi Rams would go on to win the Fans for Diversity accolade on the Football Supporters’ Association Awards later in the month.

Wolves technical director Scott Sellars predicted a vibrant future in the sport for Kam Kandola after the 17-year-old put pen to paper on his first contract in senior football.

“Kam is a great representative of the South Asian community in Wolverhampton,” Sellars mentioned.

“There is an actual scarcity of gamers from that background in football in normal, however we wish our membership to mirror our area people.

“I’d love to think that South Asian kids growing up in Wolverhampton will see Kam as a great role model because he’s done a lot of work in telling his story and how it has been for him to get to where he’s at.

“Hopefully he’ll encourage extra native boys, not solely those that share his background, to consider that they’ll do it as a result of they’ve seen Kam do it.”

Shadab Ifthikar then landed the supervisor’s job at Highland League aspect Fort William, with Sky Sports News revealing the Belgium scout was turning into the primary supervisor of South Asian heritage in senior Scottish football.

The Preston-born former Mongolia assistant supervisor mentioned: “I used to be shocked after I heard that. I’m nonetheless in shock, to be sincere with you [that I’m the first South Asian managerial appointment in senior Scottish football].

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Fort William boss Shadab Iftikhar opens up about his appointment on the Highland League membership, discusses what it was wish to handle in Mongolia and what he discovered while working with Belgium boss Roberto Martinez

“Football has to reflect society. We know it’s time for change, we know that different things need to happen in the game.

“We’ve all set to work collectively to deal with the issue, and be sure that we proceed to battle persistently, on daily basis to indicate what the attractive recreation of football ought to appear like.”

Zidane Iqbal: It’s a dream come true

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Zidane Iqbal paid tribute to his associates, household and coaches on social media after turning into the primary British South Asian footballer in Manchester United’s historical past

The following week noticed 18-year-old Zidane Iqbal take to the sphere at Old Trafford to change into the primary British South Asian footballer in Manchester United’s historical past.

Manchester-born Iqbal, who has each Pakistani and Iraqi heritage, got here on as a late substitute for Jesse Lingard in the 1-1 draw in opposition to Young Boys to make his Champions League debut.

Iqbal mentioned: “It feels amazing, I’ve been working my whole life for this opportunity, it’s a dream come true, it’s just the start and hopefully I can keep pushing on.”

A spokesperson for supporters’ group Apna England informed Sky Sports News: “It’s clearly a proud second for everybody related to Manchester United Football Club however additionally it is completely monumental for South Asians in the sport.

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Manchester United teen Zidane Iqbal was destined to realize large issues in the sport, says his first football coach Stewart Hamer

“Zidane Iqbal is an exceptional talent, whose commitment, work-ethic and dedication to making it at the highest level has been rewarded by one of the biggest clubs in world football.

“With pressing motion required to deal with inequalities that persist throughout football, there isn’t any higher approach to encourage change than by highlighting these which are blazing a path in our recreation.

“Seeing Zidane Iqbal out there making history will no doubt inspire millions across the world. It’s a great day for the community – and a great day for football.”

British South Asians in Football

For extra tales, options and movies, go to our groundbreaking South Asians in Football web page on and keep tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital platforms.

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