Want to take Wolverhampton Wanderers back to Premier League: Danny Batth

Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Danny Batth, whose father migrated to the United Kingdom from Punjab, is currently visiting India, where he recently expressed his desire to play for the Indian national team.

football Updated: May 19, 2017 19:22 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Wolverhampton Wanderers,Premier League,Danny Batth
Danny Bath wants to play for India and is eager to take Wolverhampton Wanderers back to the Premier League.(Danny Batth ‘Bart’/Twitter)

Danny Batth has had quite a rise since joining the Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves) academy as a 10-year-old. Now captain of the club, which is in the English Championship (one rung below Premier League), Batth is among a rising number of footballers with South Asian roots who are playing professionally in Europe.

The 26-year-old defender, whose father migrated to UK from Punjab, is currently visiting India, where he recently expressed his desire to play for the Indian national team.

Batth took time out to speak to Hindustan Times on the challenges ahead, his time at Wolves and football in general.

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Your thoughts on the just concluded season? You think Wolves could have done better than finish 15th?

It was a very difficult season for us, with the amount of changes within the club, having a whole new board, three managers and a dozen new players signed days before the start of the season. It reflected in our (lack of) consistency on the pitch, which we hope to address next season.

Why are you visiting India? Do you still have relatives here?

My visit to India was arranged to carry out some charity work up North with the YUWA charity, (which is) helping young vulnerable girls from being sold into child marriage, stay in education and give them the opportunity to play football to build teamwork and confidence skills.

Yes, some more distant relatives live in India, but most of my family moved to the UK or Canada a long time ago. We still have land and a house up north which the family still visits.

You recently said you would like to play for India? Are you ready to give up your British passport, even possibly move to India, to fulfil the criteria for an Indian passport?

I would love to have the opportunity to play for this great country. However, playing in the Indian leagues is not an option at the moment as I recently signed a long-term contract at Wolves and am aiming to take the club back to the Premier League. That is my goal domestically. I hope, along with many Indian origin players playing in Europe and America, that there can be amendments to the rules allowing footballers of Indian descent playing in other countries the chance to represent India, in the same way the other nations recognise players whose parents were born in India.

Do you follow Indian football? From your visits, what have you made of the state of football in India?

Yes, as far as the limited global coverage goes, Twitter allows the most access in the UK in terms of keeping up to date with Indian Football. I hope a change of the ruling (will allow for) the progression of the national team to boost India’s recognition as a footballing country internationally, and bring success.

Would you consider playing for an Indian club later on in your career?

Of course, at a later stage, once I have achieved my goals to play at the highest level possible in England, I would consider the option of playing domestically in India. But I hope that playing for India becomes an option much sooner than that!

Many footballers with South Asian roots are making a mark in European leagues. In the UK, youself, Neil Taylor, the Nabi brothers etc. have risen in their clubs. Does this indicate football’s rising popularity among the South Asian community in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe?

Yes, there have been a handful of players emerge domestically in Europe and England, which is progress for South Asian football. But due to a lack of role models in the UK and India, I believe parents and families prefer an academic background for their children instead of coinciding studies alongside football - they don’t believe they can succeed. All this could change in the UK, and India could have a far larger representation in Europe, if the Indian national team rules were changed. Indian players would have the option to play in Europe and still represent their country. However, at the moment, players have their hands tied, which is a shame.

Neil Taylor is a good example, British-born, Indian and Welsh parents, playing in England, but still given the opportunity to represent Wales with all the squad playing outside Wales’ local leagues, and their national team climbing to ninth in the world rankings and reaching the Euro 2016 semifinals.

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Wolves enjoy quite a strong support from the local Punjabi support base…

Wolves, like so many other UK clubs, have Punjabi supporter groups, who follow the club home and away. They really are passionate about their football and work hard away from the game to raise a lot of money for local charities and Indian charities.

Do you think Wolves can challenge for promotion to the Premier League next season?

I enjoy every moment of being a Wolves player, and being captain is a great privilege. I aspire to keep improving and hope the team grows to fight for promotion this season in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.

First Published: May 19, 2017 18:08 IST