Sports: Football

New Asian Star in British Football 

There’s a new Asian star in the football firmament of soccer-mad Britain—Harpal Singh, who plays for Stockport and is already being compared to England striker Michael Owen
A new Asian star has been spotted in the football firmament of soccer-mad Britain. Harpal Singh, who plays for Stockport and is already being compared to England striker Michael Owen. Along with Zesh Rehman at Fulham, Newcastle’s Michael Chopra and Adnam Ahmed of Huddersfield, Singh is one of only four Asians playing for Football League clubs at present. The British media describes Singh as an “engaging 24-year-old”. 
He was born in Bradford and raised in the nearby cricket stronghold of Pudsey. His rise in Britain’s football league needs to be seen in the context of the perception that Asians are more interested in cricket and that racism in football clubs prevents Asian footballers getting their due. 

Singh says: “It’s strange that there are so few of us in the professional game, because Asians really love their football and some are very good players.” Personally, I have never been aware of any discrimination towards me in football. But I suppose it’s easy for me to say that because I was involved with Leeds from an early age. I never felt like an outsider. I was one of the lads and we all grew up together.”

"More Indians are joining academies and it will happen for them like it did for black players"

The problem for most Asian kids is that they have been brought up to play for their own teams in their own leagues and when they are offered a trial at a professional club, they’re stepping into the unknown. 
They are taken away from where they feel comfortable and have to train with lads they’ve never met before. Understandably they find it difficult to show what they can do.

Since there aren’t enough Harpals around, what’s his prescription?. “We need to work at the grassroots level and help them become involved. But more and more Asians are finding their way into academies and schools of excellence and it will happen for them one day, just like it did for Black players.”
At the age of 11, Singh, a left-sided midfield player, joined Farsley Celtic and was invited to train with Leeds. He began playing for Leeds the following year and progressed, via the academy, to a professional contract. 

He has since joined Stockport, which is now struggling at the wrong end of League Two. 

—Empire Bureau

January 2006

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