British Asians in association football

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The term "British Asian" generally refers to British citizens who can trace their origin to South Asia; however, it also refer to those of East Asian origin. The lack of British Asians in association football has received significant media attention,[1][2] and has seen some clubs announce plans to explicitly target young British Asian players.

In October 2017 the BBC stated that out of 3,000 professional footballers in England, only 10 were Asian.[3]


In April 2001, Britons of South or East Asian heritage constituted over 55% of the non-white population, or at least 4.4% of the total population.[4] 2007 estimates for England only suggest at least 7.0% of the English population as being of Asian origin, or 59% of non-whites.[5]



Club football[edit]

A Commission for Racial Equality survey in 2004 found only seven professional British Asian footballers playing in the UK; the same survey also found only ten British Asian players at Premier League academies.[6] By February 2008 the number of professionals had dropped to just five, and less than 1 in 100 of young players in Academies throughout the entire English football league system were Asian.[7] Current professionals, such as Adnan Ahmed, have publicly spoken out about the lack of fellow Asians in the sport.[8]

Roger Verdi, of Indian origin, was forced to change his name because of racism, and had to move to the United States to start a professional career.[9][10]

Zesh Rehman, of Pakistani origin, was the first British Asian to play in the Premiership.[11] Rehman later launched his own Foundation in May 2010, with the intention of helping young British Asians in football.[12][13]

Anwar Uddin, of Bangladeshi origin, was the first British Asian to captain a side in the top four divisions of English League football.[14]

In 2011, British-Pakistani footballer Kashif Siddiqi founded the Kashif Siddiqi Foundation, with the aim to encourage increase the participation of British Asians in association football.[15]

In October 2013 the Football Association announced plans to encourage an increase in British Asian players and coaches.[16][17]

In December 2015, Yan Dhanda became the second professional Asian player in the Premier League, after Neil Taylor. Dhanda signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Liverpool.[18]

On 28 November 2017, Hamza Choudhury made his Premier League debut for Leicester coming on as substitute in the 83rd minute of a home win against Tottenham Hotspur. He is the first player of Bangladeshi descent to have played in the Premier League, as well as the only Bangladeshi to currently play in the Premier League.[19]

In February 2019, Adil Nabi said that he wanted to be an inspiration to other British Asian footballers, in the same way that Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham had done for black players.[20]

In October 2019 there were "just 12 players of South Asian heritage across the Premier League and the English Football League".[21]

International football[edit]

Frank Soo, of Chinese heritage, played for the England wartime team and remains the only player of East Asian heritage to do so.[22]

In August 2007, trials were organised by the Pakistan Football Federation in Rotherham, South Yorkshire for British Pakistanis players to attend a training camp with the Pakistan national team.[23]

A number of British Asians have represented their secondary nations at international level; a full list can be found below.


There are a number of Asian-specific football teams such as London APSA, Sporting Khalsa and Sporting Bengal United, who became the first Asian clubs to play in the FA Cup in 2005.[6]

In October 2007, clubs in the Football League began out-reach programmes into Asian communities to attract new fans.[24]

In March 2009, Premier League club Chelsea announced plans to target young players from Asian communities.[25] Two players found on the trial later signed with Southend United and Leyton Orient, and in May 2010 Chelsea launched a second initiative, with the aim to find six young British Asian players.[26]


In December 1999, a Scottish Asian football fan publicly spoke out about the racism he had encountered at Rangers.[27]

Research compiled by the Premier League in March 2009 concluded that more British Asians were attending games than ever before.[28] However, research in 2013 by the BBC found that only 1% of fans of teams in the North West of England are Asian, despite making up 20% of the population of some areas.[29]


Jarnail Singh, who is of Indian descent, has been described as a "trailblazer" for Asian referees.[30]

The Asian Football Awards[edit]

Launched to recognise the outstanding contribution to both the professional game and grass roots initiatives by individuals and groups across the UK with South Asian heritage, the awards focus on the positive efforts made in the football industry.[31]


The Football Association has held meetings on the matter of British Asians in association football,[32] and they launched a campaign in 2013 to increase British Asians in football,[33] though in March 2014 it announced plans to increase the number of British Asians in football would be delayed.[34] FA chairman Greg Dyke admitted in December 2014 that attempts to increase Asian participation in the sport had failed.[35]

In January 2012 the inaugural Asian Football Awards were held.[36]


In April 2019 British Asian footballers spoke out about the racist abuse they had encountered.[37] In August 2019 Yan Dhanda said that the racism he has encountered as a British Asian footballer inspires him to play his best.[38]

List of British Asian footballers[edit]

The following is a list of notable British Asian footballers – those who have participated at professional or international level – organised by ethnic heritage.

Name Heritage Debut[39] International details Notes & references
Husin, Noor Afghanistan 2016
Kouhyar, Maziar Afghanistan 2016
Choudhury, Hamza Bangladesh 2015 Youth caps for England [40]
Ahmed, Shahed Bangladesh 2004 [41]
Uddin, Anwar Bangladesh 2002 [42]
Chung, Sammy Republic of China 1951
Soo, Frank Republic of China 1933 Full caps for England
Bains, Rikki India 2006
Batth, Danny India 2009 [16][43][42]
Benning, Malvind India 2012 [16][42]
Carter, Jimmy India 1987 First Asian to play in the Premier League, but did not disclose his background at the time[42][44]
Chopra, Michael India 2000 Youth caps for England In August 2014 Chopra stated that he wanted to play for India at international level.[45][42]
Dhanda, Yan India 2018 Youth caps for England [18]
Dosanj, Aman India 1999 Youth caps for England Women First British Asian to represent England at any level[46][47]
Juttla, Jazz India 1997 [48][49]
Sansara, Netan India 2008 Youth caps for England
Sekhon, Aaron India 2011 [50][51]
Singh, Harpal India 2001
Taylor, Neil India 2007 Senior caps for Wales [16][52][42]
Verdi, Roger India 1972
Verma, Aman India 2009 [42]
Williams, Rhys India 2008 Full caps for Australia Born in Australia to a British father and an Indian mother
Williams, Ryan India 2011 Australia U-20 caps Born in Australia to a British father and an Indian Mother
Kasim, Yaser Iraq 2010 Full caps for Iraq
Jalal, Shwan Iraq 2000 Full caps for England C
Ahmed, Adnan Pakistan 2004 Full caps for Pakistan [42]
Asghar, Adam Pakistan 2013 [53]
Ashraf, Reis Pakistan 2009 Full caps for Pakistan
Bashir, Atif Pakistan 2004 Full caps for Pakistan Born in Germany to a British Asian father and a German Turkish mother
Docker, Adam Pakistan 2007 Full caps for Pakistan
Gondal, Usman Pakistan 2006 Full caps for Pakistan
Iqbal, Amjad Pakistan 2007 Full caps for Pakistan
Khan, Otis Pakistan 2013
Khan, Sabhir Pakistan 2009 Full caps for Pakistan
Nabi, Adil Pakistan 2013 Youth caps for England [20][54][42]
Nabi, Samir Pakistan 2016 [20]
Rehman, Zesh Pakistan 2003 Full caps for Pakistan [42]
Sarwar, Rashid Pakistan 1985 [48][55]
Siddiqi, Kashif Pakistan 2005 Full caps for Pakistan [16]
Suliman, Easah Pakistan 2015 Youth caps for England First player of Pakistani heritage to captain an England team[54]
Etheridge, Neil Philippines 2008 Full caps for Philippines
Hartmann, Mark Philippines 2011 Full caps for Philippines
Hartmann, Matthew Philippines 2006 Full caps for Philippines
Gier, Rob Philippines 2000 Full caps for Philippines
Gould, Chad Philippines 2004 Full caps for Philippines
Greatwich, Christopher Philippines 2004 Full caps for Philippines
Greatwich, Phil Philippines 2006 Full caps for Philippines
Greatwich, Simon Philippines 2008 Full caps for Philippines
Younghusband, James Philippines 2006 Full caps for Philippines
Younghusband, Phil Philippines 2006 Full caps for Philippines
Ng, Perry Singapore 2014 [56]
Chunonsee, Mika Thailand 2007 Youth caps for Wales; full caps for Thailand
Ramasut, Tom Thailand 1996 Youth caps for Wales
Waite, Jamie Thailand 2004 Full caps for Thailand
Mohamed, Kaid Yemen 2003

In popular culture[edit]

The 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham deals with issues relating to British Asians in football.

See also[edit]


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  39. ^ Club or international debut – whichever came first
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