Mesut zil says he will give British South Asian players a platform to shine after working with partners such as the Football Association and Bradford City to launch the Football for Peace Mesut Ozil Centre.
Speaking exclusively with Sky Sports News last year, former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey spoke about growing up in Leicester and playing football with South Asian children as a youngster, adding that the community has an undeniable passion for the game.
But despite making up about eight per cent of the UK population, less than 0.25 per cent of players in the English leagues have a South Asian background, Kick It Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari said. Sky Sports News that this is “the biggest statistical anomaly in football”.
“I’ve always been amazed why the South Asian community should only be fans of the game,” said World Cup winner Ozil.
“Why don’t we see more players or managers breaking through in professional football? I want to promote them, give them a chance to be successful both on and off the field.”
“I myself come from an ethnically diverse background and understand the challenges. I hope the Football for Peace Mesut Ozil Center becomes the platform they need.”
Mesut Ozil’s development center aims to provide pathways into football and education and will be hosted at the University of Bradford, with elite sessions taking place at Bradford City’s training ground.
Bradford City CEO Ryan Sparks said: “We are delighted to be part of the Mesut Ozil Football for Peace Development Center which will facilitate the growth and inclusion of the South Asian community in football. Inclusion and diversity are fundamental to the success of our club and Bradford as a whole – and we pride ourselves on providing a welcoming and warm environment for all.”
FA Board Member, Rupinder Bains, said: “The FA is proud to support this important initiative that aligns with our Asian inclusion strategy, Bringing Opportunities to Communities. All people, regardless of ethnicity or background, should be able to play and enjoy the game. to enjoy.
“Through this initiative, we hope that more young people from historically underrepresented ethnic backgrounds will break into the academy structures, creating a stronger future pipeline of talent for the professional game. It is a promising step forward.”
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Bradford, Professor Shirley Congdon, said: “Through this partnership, we hope to use football to connect with young people in our communities, show how sport can contribute to solving pressing social and environmental problems, and help them become future leaders who will make a difference. for societies around the world. “
The Bradford hub is sponsored by Innaree and will be run as a pilot, with more Football for Peace centers co-branded with different players expected to roll out in different parts of the country towards the new year.
Ozil is a long-standing supporter of Football for Peace, a global organization supported by the United Nations and internationally co-founded by British South Asian and former Pakistani international footballer Kash Siddiqi.
Ozil partnered with Siddiqi during lockdown last year, with the pair ensuring the delivery of 500,000 meals in the UK that would go to waste management from Wembley Stadium.
Siddiqi said: “Football has given me so much, and together with Mesut we want to create a platform that will provide a framework within the football pyramid between professional clubs and also our community.
“While it is important to see greater representation in professional sport, it is also vital to recognize the power football can have on communities. Our continued engagement with youth and communities also seeks to contribute to the reducing the devastating effects of Covid-19, which also led to reduced sports participation, especially within the South Asian community.”
British South Asian community ‘often overlooked’
The center also enjoys the support of national charity Sporting Equals, which founded the British Asians in Sport and Physical Activity Board (BASPA) in 2018 to explore why British South Asians are severely underrepresented at the highest levels of sport.
Only seven athletes (out of 630) of South Asian background competed for Team GB at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the Paralympic Games. Five years later, the situation has worsened – wheelchair rugby gold medalist Ayuz Bhuta was the only British South Asian athlete to compete in both the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games.
BASPA Coaching Vice-Chairman, Manisha Tailor, MBE said: “The issues of talent pathways and support for British South Asian communities have been around for a long time. While other ethnically diverse communities may find their way into elite sport, the British South Asian Community is often overlooked.
“There is also a lot of misinformation and outdated stereotypes about our community, which has created an unconscious bias towards our energy and passion for sports that aren’t just cricket or hockey.”
Khalsa Football Federation Chairman, Gurdawar Singh Dhaliwal added: “Due to the lack of representation at the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, many would conclude that there is no interest from our community to participate in football or maybe we are not talented enough. not true – in 1996, Jas Bains and Raj Patel emphasized the dangers of this misinformation and attempted to rectify it with the ironically named “Asians Can’t Play Football” report.
“It is sad that 25 years later, as the desire and talent within Britain’s South Asian communities continues, a lack of understanding, engagement, empathy and support for elite talent pathways and specific community engagement continues to block our community from reaching the professional levels that we know. we are able to achieve.”
‘Proud’ Mishra wants more South Asian coaches
Meanwhile, Charlton Women’s assistant manager Riteesh Mishra spoke of his pride in representing British South Asian coaches at the highest level of football.
Mishra is an assistant to Karen Hills at Championship side Charlton Women, making him the highest-ranked South Asian coach in England’s elite competition.
“I am very proud, for my family name and for myself, to represent the community in women’s football and elite football in general,” said Mishra. Sky Sports News.
“On the other hand, it’s pretty disappointing that there haven’t been others – especially at the top end of the game – who have been able to break through. We’re starting to see good progress and I just hope the fact that I’m talking to you can give younger coaches the idea that you can make a profession in professional football.
“It’s hard. But we can see that there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to help coaches like me get to the top – and then it’s about our quality, our resilience and our commitment to stay there once you get in.” those jobs, that’s really important.”
British South Asians in Football
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