Mesut Ozil says he will give British South Asian players a platform to shine after tying up with partners like the Football Association and Bradford City for the launch of the Football for Peace Mesut Ozil Center.
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News Last year, former Liverpool forward Emile Heskey spoke about growing up in Leicester and playing soccer with South Asian children when he was young, adding that the community has an unquestionable passion for the game.
Yet despite representing around eight per cent of the UK population, less than 0.25 per cent of the players in all leagues in England come from South Asia, as Kick It Out president Sanjay Bhandari said. Sky Sports News that this is “the biggest statistical anomaly in soccer.”
“It has always amazed me that the South Asian community is only allowed to be a fan of the game,” said World Cup winner Ozil.
“Why don’t we see more players or coaches breaking into professional football? I want to promote them, give them the opportunity to be successful both on and off the field.
“I myself am of diverse ethnic origin and understand the challenges. I hope that the Mesut Ozil Football for Peace Center becomes the platform they need.”
The Mesut Ozil Development Center aims to provide pathways to football and education and will be housed at the University of Bradford, with elite sessions taking place at the Bradford City training ground.
Bradford City CEO Ryan Sparks said: “We are delighted to be a part of the Mesut Ozil Football for Peace Development Center, which will facilitate the growth and inclusion of the South Asian community in soccer. Inclusion and diversity are critical 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, They should be able to play and enjoy the game.
“Through this initiative, we hope to see more youth from historically underrepresented ethnic backgrounds break into academy structures, creating a stronger future stream of talent for the professional game. It is a promising step forward.”
University of Bradford Vice Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon said: “Through this partnership, we hope to use soccer to engage 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 in societies around the world. . “
The Bradford center is sponsored by Innaree and will be run as a pilot, with more Football for Peace centers expected to be implemented with different players in different parts of the country heading into the new year.
Ozil is a longtime supporter of Football for Peace, a global organization backed by the United Nations and co-founded internationally by British international footballer from South Asia and Pakistan, Kash Siddiqi.
Ozil partnered with Siddiqi during the lockdown last year and the couple organized the delivery of 500,000 meals across the UK that would go towards waste management from Wembley Stadium.
Siddiqi said: “Soccer has given me a lot, and working with Mesut we want to create a platform that provides a framework within the soccer 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 soccer can have in communities. Our ongoing commitment to youth and communities also seeks to help reduce the devastating effects of Covid-19. , which has also led to a reduction in sports participation, especially within the South Asian community. “
The British South Asian community ‘often overlooked’
The center is also supported by the national charity Sporting Equals, which formed the British Board of Asians in Sport and Physical Activity (BASPA) in 2018 to examine why Britons from South Asia are so underrepresented in the most high level of sport.
Only seven athletes (out of 630) of South Asian origin competed for Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Five years later, the situation has worsened: wheelchair rugby gold medalist Ayuz Bhuta was the only British athlete from South Asia at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
BASPA Vice President of Coaches Manisha Tailor, MBE said: “The problems of the talent and support pathways extending to the British South Asian communities have been longstanding. While other ethnically diverse communities may find their way into elite sports, 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 are not just cricket or hockey.”
Khalsa Football Federation President Gurdawar Singh Dhaliwal added: “The lack of representation in the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, many would infer that our community has no interest in participating in football or perhaps we are not sufficiently talented Not true: In 1996, Jas Bains and Raj Patel highlighted the dangers of this misinformation and tried to rectify it with the report ironically called “Asians Can’t Play Soccer.”
“It is sad that 25 years later, as desire and talent persist within the British South Asian communities, a lack of understanding, commitment, empathy and support for elite talent pathways and specific community engagement continues to prevent our community reaches the professional levels that we know. We are capable of achieving. “
‘Proud’ Mishra wants more coaches from South Asia
Meanwhile, Charlton Women’s deputy director Riteesh Mishra has spoken of her pride in representing South Asian British coaches at the highest level of football.
Mishra is Karen Hills’ assistant in the Charlton Women’s Championship, making him the top-ranked South Asian coach in the elite game in England.
“I am very proud, by my last name and by myself, to be able to represent the community in women’s football and elite football in general,” said Mishra. Sky Sports News.
“On the other hand, it is quite disappointing that there have not been others, especially at the higher end of the game, who have been able to break through. We are starting to see some good progress, and I just hope the fact that Talking to you can give the coaches younger the idea that you can make a profession in professional football.
“It’s tough. But we can see there’s a lot of work behind the scenes to help coaches like me get to the top, and then it’s about our quality, our stamina, and our effort to try and stay there once we get there. you get into those jobs, that’s really important. “
British South Asia in football
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