There are some intersting noises coming out of Highbury today, where Jes Bains, Chair of the 'Asians in Football' Forum launches a report entitled 'Asians Can Play Football : A wasted decade'. The report comes ten years after the publication of 'Asians Can't Play Football', which served as a clarion call to the game's authorities to start taking a lead in breaking down the barriers that exclude British Asians from our national game. According to Bains, this is a call that has unfortunately fallen on deaf ears...
Within the Asian footballing community there is a feeling that The FA as a governing body have failed successive generations of young talented footballers of Asian background.
The pitifully low numbers of Asian professionals, set against the huge interest and passion for the sport within the community, is symbolic of the way in which football has discriminated us out of the game through stereotyping and a lack of action to address this issue.
You can't argue with the facts. There are only four Asian players playing professional football in this country, which is pitiful when you see the passion and commitment our Asian community has developed for the game.
There's clearly a lot of work to be done if stereotypes are to be broken down. When Londonist visited Senrab FC in the summer, we listened to their head coach complain vociferously about the perceived attitude and behaviour of local Bangladeshi players, whilst attempting to head off any accusations of racism by pointing out the large number of young black players in the club. It sounded a little like a Ron Atkinson - 'some of my best mates are black' style argument, but it was hard to pin this down as clear prejudice. What was for sure though, is that there are some serious feelings of suspicion and misunderstanding between communities in that area, a theme that runs throughout English football, from top to bottom. Only last saturday, we heard a player in a amateur side call an Asian member of the opposition an 'immigrant'. Nice.
The FA and the Premier League are saying all the right things, but can we really rely on them to lead the way? Probably not. But fortunately, as Bains and the report point out, there are plenty of people in football who are trying to make some headway....
On the positive side we are happy to report that grassroots clubs, organisations and volunteers have taken the lead in developing football within Asian communities despite barriers and frustrations they may face.
Image is of Walthamstow Red Star , an Asian team playing in the Forest District Sunday Football League.