In the absence of any British-Asian Premier League players, Chelsea Football Club are putting young Asians through their paces to see if any of them can make the grade.
Jaz Dhami, 25, is a young, talented Asian role model. He is a Birmingham-born bhangra singer and coaches an under-10 football team in his spare time. Who better — in the absence of any British-Asian professional Premier League players —to help launch Chelsea’s second annual search for an Asian soccer star? Last year, more than 350 wannabes, aged eight to 13, travelled to Chelsea’s leafy training ground in Cobham, Surrey, to be put through their paces by some of the shrewdest coaches in the game. This bank holiday weekend, the Premier League champions are expecting many more to turn up.
The initiative is the first of its kind to be undertaken by a professional football club. Simon Taylor, Chelsea’s head of corporate social responsibility, says: “I’m sick and tired of hearing that Asians can’t play football; that they’re only interested in cricket; that they have the wrong diet; that their parents want them all to be lawyers and doctors. It’s all complete nonsense.
“A football club should represent every strata of society, and Chelsea is open to using its prestige and influence to say that football can make a difference.”
Black players are now accepted as an integral part of the professional game. But it was very different in the 1970s and 80s when Cyrille Regis, John Barnes and Viv Anderson were making their names and the National Front was making trouble on the terraces.