Football

The global game still lacks appreciation in Asia

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Traditionally, Asian people excel in sports including cricket, hockey and table tennis, but given the population there are perhaps surprisingly few Asian people involved in football.

Even at grassroots, junior and youth level, there are less than 3% of British Asians involved in the sport in either playing, management or coaching.

There is a notable absence in other major sports including rugby and athletics. It can be argued that one reason for this is tradition.

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Arguably, there is a strong tradition for many Asian people to continue the culture of the previous generation; if a father played hockey then his son and or daughter is expected to do the same.

This can be one reason as to why there are relatively few Asian footballers.

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Of course, there are many Asian football players in Asia itself. The Indian Super League (ISL) is gaining prominence despite being just two years old. The majority of its players are home grown yet its profile is being raised by such players as Elano, John Arne Riise and Roberto Carlos, as well as managers such as ex England manager Peter Taylor, former Arsenal star Nicolas Anelka and World Cup winner Marco Matterazzi.

The J League in Japan is well established and co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup tournament. In the Middle East, 92% of the UAE football league players are Asian, with the remaining 8% including such players as former Spain captain Xavi.

Domestically, there are and have been British Asian footballers such as Michael Chopra, Neil Taylor, Zesh Rehman and Ki Sung-Yeung, but they are hardly representative of what we consider to be a global sport.

In order for more Asian people to participate there needs to be stronger efforts from all sides. The Asian community needs to advance its tradition and embrace football more closely.

Young Asian kids wish to explore the game, play it, enjoy the cultural and social aspects, compete and win. We must all gather together and celebrate the diversity and quality within football.

Great efforts have been made to ensure all are included in the game, let’s continue that tradition.

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