27 Aug 2014

Where are all the Asian footballers?

Sports reporter

It is easy to assume that Asian people do not play football because they do not like the game – but that assumption only exists because we do not see them playing, writes Jordan Jarrett-Bryan.

The stats are scary though. Of the 4,500 odd players in the Football League, (that includes scholars and academy players), only four are of south Asian descent.

And in the richest league in the world, the Premier League, there are only three; Neil Taylor at Swansea and brothers Adil and Samir Nabi at West Brom.


Asian football leaders have had enough and want change. The grassroots organisation, Zesh Reham Foundation (ZRF), has taken matters into its own hands educating and coaching some of London’s youngest and brightest Asian talent.

Unlike many, its sessions are not exclusive to boys and girls of Asian heritage. ZRF also feels it is not just about getting more Asian players into football, but coaches, scouts, physios and other areas of the administration.

The Football Association has identified the need to do something and has organised a series of football forums in heavily dense populated Asian parts of the country.

The point of these forums is to speak to the Asian community and ask them what they think needs to be done and do their best to facilitate it. And the FA too echoes the intentions of ZRF. It is not just on the pitch there is a need for more Asian people in football.

Asian coaches

The FA wants 10 per cent of coaches and referees to be black or Asian by 2017 – it is currently four per cent. For BAME (black, Asian minority ethnic) coaches the target is the same. Last year there were about 30,000 FA-licensed coaches, to put it into perspective.

But after speaking to one of the three Asian players in the Premier League, 20-year-old Adil Nabi feels it is ultimately about personal ambition, determination and talent.

”You have to take personal responsibility, put in the hard work yourself and things can happen. I didn’t experience any resistance, the pathway was there for me and my brothers and we took it”, he told Channel 4 News.

At this summer’s World Cup only two nations were from Asia, South Korea and Japan – none from south Asia. The need for a bigger presence from Asian nations on the international scene is obvious, but the FA will be judged on how it deals with matters closer to home.