Change in a positive way

The fourth of this year’s Asians In Football forums arrived in South Yorkshire on Thursday evening, with Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane hosting over 50 local participants from Asian and other ethnic minority groups in the city.

Aimed at increasing Asian representation in the game across the country, in terms of players, coaches, referees and administrators, The FA’s equality team were left with more food for thought and feedback from the workshops.

After previously holding similar forums at West Ham United, Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion in recent weeks, this session featured the topics of women’s and girls’ football, club development, community development courses, talent ID and communication.

Participants at the Asians In Football forum in Sheffield discuss women

Nasima Akther joins other women from Sheffield to discuss Asians in Football

And there was particular interest in the women’s and girls’ game with The FA’s Polly Fildes joined by Eva Eggington – women, girls and inclusion officer at the Sheffield & Hallamshire FA – to discuss ways in which that aspect can be developed in local Asian communities.

Among the contributors was local councillor Nasima Akther, who set up Sheffield Ladies Community FC last year as a club for females from all communities in the area to come and enjoy the game together.

She told “It’s a female-only club, but for whoever wants to come.

“We want to focus on the fact that football is a fun game, it’s terrific for health, both mental health and physical health and it is something which brings everybody together.

“There is a lack of football role models in Sheffield. People play cricket, but for whatever reason, Asian people think football is just for white people who are six feet or seven feet high.

“But it is a game that absolutely brings the community together and we want people to know that. The country is changing, life is changing and careers are changing,

“Girls can do whatever they want to do and it’s important that girls know they can play football and it’s fun to play football.

“It’s a place they can go to exercise, enjoy playing, have a coffee afterwards and be with friends, having a laugh.”

With representation from the area coming from coaches, players and parents, one thing everyone was united on was the importance of women and girls’ football centres and an audit of the game and participation in the different areas to discover just how much demand there would be.

And for Nasima, Thursday’s forum was hopefully the start of something to help increase and improve those involved in the game from the Asian community in Sheffield.

“It [the forum] was an excellent idea and I wish it had happened before and would happen more often,” she added.

“I didn’t know when I was setting up my football team who to contact or who could help me, it’s very much a grey area and people have no knowledge.

“I want to see the small per cent of Asian kids who play football become 99 per cent and see it advertised in schools and in the community so that people know it’s an option.

“I think it’s sad that in colleges and schools they never say you can be a sports person. Why not?

“So I want to see this change in a positive way and that people know this exists and it’s not just a dream – you can take an action towards it and make it happen.”

The next Asians In Football forum will take place at GNG Leicester FC on Thursday 4 August.