The meeting was headed by Jonathan Mills of the F.A and was attended by around twenty people representing Asian and ethnic minorities from across the country.
The basis of the meeting was about why there is not enough representation of Asians in football whether that was players or coaches alike.
The meeting was video taped by the F.A.
A few months earlier Kick It Out also held a similar meeting at Aston Villa in Birmingham.
The meeting I attended looked at the following points:
1) Potential Problems and barriers.
2) Route into Professional football for young players.
3) Football Culture and structure among Asian Communities.
4)Perceived/actual racism and racial stereotyping.
5) Ideal age for recruitment.
In October 2005, Suvrat Thatte issued a report for the F.A titled “Lack of Asians in Professional Football in England”
Below are the points highlighted in the report:
The perception was that due to the continued lack of attention from people within football, the Asian football community seems to have become insular.
They feel more comfortable playing in all Asian teams or sometimes in all Asian leagues so as to avoid the possibility of racial abuse which they may face at grassroots and amateur football.
The popular sentiment is “they keep to themselves”
The Asian football community was of the view that institutional racism was still prevalent among football.
Asian players were subject to racist abuse in their local amateur leagues, which made them maintain an insular identity in all Asian teams.
Also racial stereotyping was another important factor due to which the scouts and coaches stayed away from Asian players thinking that they were not equipped to play football.
The scouts and coaches were of the opinion that the Asians who play local league football were way above the ideal age of recruitment.
The scouts and coaches expressed a lack of knowledge about the Asian leagues and the tournaments in which they participate.
Also according to most coaches interviewed, they felt that there was a lack of support from the Asian parents with regard to their children’s participation in football.
The parents wanted their children to pursue an academic career and were uncertain about the opportunities and pitfalls which their children might face.
Asian children are expected to undertake religious studies mostly in the evenings; the time when the clubs conduct the training sessions at the Academies or Development centres.
Other problems such as deprivation, travelling costs and other financial factors also played a role in depriving the Asians an opportunity to further their talent.
So the question posed at the meeting ,where are we now 6 years on?
One of the first questions asked to Jonathan was can you tell us how many Asian are actually playing football, have the F.A got any statistics?
Well the answer at the meeting was that no they did not have any figures available to us at the meeting.
We were then given sheets asking us what are the barriers to “recruitment”, “inclusion” and “development” into grassroots and professional football for Asian players?
We were asked what are the barriers at Primary, Secondary and school leaving age?
To me, it is like the F.A have got a budget set aside and because Asians are making a noise about the lack of opportunities, meetings are held here, there and everywhere to appease the communities.
I can’t think of a barrier for any child who wants to play football regardless of the colour of their skin.
Asian children have just as much opportunity to join teams as any other child.
My own children play football, I’ve seen many Asian children play for non Asian clubs.
Why ask the question, infact why try to make an excuse and call it a barrier?
There were discussions about religion and that during some months, in certain religions fasting takes place and that can be seen as a possible stumbling block.
I can’t recall Muhammad Ali or now Amir Khan having suffered from that!
There are many black players who are religious and follow the Muslim faith, was that ever an issue when they were being looked at, at a younger age?
The problem does not lie at grassroots football when children play for amateur clubs.
It lies at the professional level and it lies with all the coaches and managers within those clubs.
If you are going to have meetings, then have them with the professional clubs where not just the scouts, Academy managers, coaches are there, but where the managers of the first teams and Chairmen are there.
That way you educate the right people, explain the problems to the people who make the key decisions.
When a scout goes out to watch a player and he sees a young 8 or 9 year old for example, a young stocky black lad playing up front, he can compare him to a professional player.
Same as he could to a white youngster.
He could go back and say to his Head of the Academy or Development, “I’ve seen a young version of Drogba” or “I’ve seen a young version of Rooney”. With an Indian, he cannot compare.
Is this right? Of course not but that is just human nature.
It is like if someone told you they had 2 or 3 Brazilian boys in their Under 10’s team, the presumption or attitude would be that you have to go and see them, they must be good, they are Brazilian!
On the other side of the coin if a scout heard about a young Indian cricketer, there would be a more positive attitude in going to see him, because comparisons can be made.
Again this is not right either.
I have said this many times, Asians do not have a right to enter academies at professional clubs just because there is an under representation of them within the game.
However they should be looked and judged fairly on their ability.
I know many players who have made it into academies and then released because they have been told they are not big enough or strong enough.
This I find amazing because surely it is easy enough to control a players diet, to control their exercise regime.
To be fair this applies to every race but Asians cannot continually keep falling at this hurdle!
There is no point in holding meetings with the Asian communities because we know what the problem is.
The F.A have been told in reports and countless meetings what the issues are but they feel fit to come up with more meetings, more budgets and barriers which do not exist at the levels they talk about.
Why is it that we cannot have meetings with the professional clubs directly?
If the F.A is so concerned about lack of Asians in professional football and the clubs always say we do encourage Asians, then why are you asking for Asian clubs to go and forge links?
Everyone knows where the Asian clubs are throughout the country apart from the F.A it seems.
Take a positive step and get the professional clubs forging strong links with these clubs.
During the final parts of the meeting, Jonathan did invite a handful of people one at a time to speak directly to the camera.
Funny that the people who had strong opinions and said things had not moved on, were somehow ignored!
In life there are walkers and talkers and the F.A at the moment are the talkers.
Either do something that the Asian communities can see is progress, real progress where they are involved with professional clubs throughout the country or at least have the balls to come out and say look “The simple fact is Asians are not good enough”
That way everyone knows where they stand because saying there is talent out there but its finding that talent makes you at the F.A and the professional clubs look stupid.
Do you agree or disagree?
We want to promote debate on all the articles on the site so your views are vital.
Use the 'add comment' section to post your response.
So long as you're topical and avoid being offensive,
we will publish your views.