By Ayyaz Malik
Within the Asian community there has always been negative stereotypes attached with football – and partaking in football at an amateur or professional level. I remember myself, and I am sure many Asian young men can relate to the feeling of wanting to ‘be the next David Beckham or Lionel Messi’. Sadly however for whatever reason many Asian’s have found breaking into mainstream football i.e. football at a professional level difficult.
The problem is an ongoing one and exists in our very own Bradford. Bradford, home to around 140,000 people from the Asian origin appears to be a victim of old stereo types – lack of acceptance, a stereotype which appears to be mainly driven by the first and second generation of the Asian community.
The truth is that lack of acceptance of ethnic minorities is still prevalent today not just in the Asian community. After extensive campaigns such as Kick It Out to promote more of a positive response to football in the ethnic community, John Terry still was found guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand and Luis Suarez was also found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra. Those are just a few high profile racial incidents which might suggest that these campaigns are not working.
However with all due respect to the first and second generation Asian’s, some may argue that they weren’t really accepted by non-Asians in the beginning – but with hard work and perseverance it can be argued that Asian’s, with their Indian takeaway’s and restaurants, are now a vital part of British life and maybe the economy itself. The first and second generation of Asians demonstrated what the current generation needs to strive for and achieve. Slowly but surely Asian’s are progressing in football, it wasn’t too long ago when a certain Zesh Rahman was captain of Bradford City, Rahman these days is investing his time in Malaysia trying to tap into new talent.
Other success stories of Asian talent, particularly in West Yorkshire, is that of Bradford born Harpal Singh once of Leeds United, Singh who was seen as such a prospect at the time was even compared to former England footballer Michael Owen by then Leeds boss George Graham. Harpal Singh now retired, spent his last years of professional football in the Irish League with Bohemians and Dundalk. Another success story of an Asian player was none other than Adnan Ahmed; Ahmed was a former Manchester United trainee who later went onto play for Huddersfield Town and Tranmere Rovers, just some of the teams the 30 year old has played for.
As impressive as it was for those players to be playing at such a level, the need for the emergence of new Asian talent is very strong. New talent needs to surface from the Asian community and the perception of football in the Asian community needs to change – it needs to be seen that football is doing something for the ethnic communities, particularly Asians, as there are very few Asians within in the sport. Asians need ‘A voice in football.’
The Bangla Bantams however are looking to change that. The organisation which is based in Bradford is run by Chairman Humayun Islam. Islam’s organisation Bangla Bantams is unique as it is the only organisation of its kind, which Islam happily points out. Islam said “Bangla Bantams is a multicultural supporters group, one of the first Bangladeshi supporters group in the UK, and it’s a social group through the Football supporters Federation. It is all certified and what we are trying to do is integrate more youths to not only play the sport but also take part in supporting the local football club.”
Islam goes on that “By supporting the local club they will want to interact more and want to play football further. Any Asian youth coming through who plays football will want to support the local club Bradford City. This is why it was set up and because there are so many barriers for Asians to overcome in football.”
Islam says that the Bangla Bantams will be attending Bradford City games together so that people who want to support the club do not have to go on their own “If they feel scared to do so.” This will allow the members to feel “Safer.”
The future plans for the organsation are to “Be part of the Bradford City supporters group and attend their meetings and represent the community by explaining what the issues are and what needs to be done further. It’s not just about going to Bradford city but we can go to other football matches too and represent the Bangle Bantams community.”
The efforts of Humayun Islam deserves a lot of credit, the Asian community has been crying out for an organisation like Bangla Bantams to give Asian’s a voice in football. With football looking to ‘expand its brand to Asia, Asian players are needed to do that for the ‘sake of the brand’.
Organisations such as Bangla Bantams will help raise awareness and hopefully the amount of Asians playing professionally. Despite the rapid growth of Bangla Bantams they will still need more time to grow – and the relevant support. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.