Nabi: I can be a role model

Statistics for participation and representation from within the British Asian community across English football are a cause for concern.

There are 3,000 professional footballers in the Football League and Premier League and around 5 million Asians living in England.

Yet despite these figures, there are just seven Asian footballers plying their trader in the English league system.

It is a problem which The FA has recognised and is making strides to tackle, taking a series of forums around the country to speak to members of the Asian community and discover why there are not more Asians involved in the professional game.

Eight forums are taking place across the country, and this week, the latest one occurred at The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion, a team who are something of a trailblazer in this area.

Adil Nabi

Adil Nabi has been at West Bromwich Albion since the age of eight

Of those seven professional Asian footballers, the Baggies have two on their books, brothers Adil and Samir Nabi with a third Nabi brother – Rahis – playing for Albion’s under-16 side.

The oldest of the three brothers, 20-year old Adil, has been at Albion for 12 years and was delighted to represent the club at Tuesday night’s event.

And the young striker admits seeing dialogue occurring at forums such as The FA’s Asians In Football consultation forums can only be a positive step toward improving those alarming statistics.

Speaking exclusively to TheFA.com, Nabi said: “The FA are doing a lot of great work and I’m pleased they’ve come here and listened to people’s views.

“The FA need to ensure they listen to what is said in these forums and provide the opportunities that the Asian people want both relating to playing and coaching.

“If they can do that then that’s fantastic but it’s then down to the people themselves to grasp those opportunities and progress. What the FA have done so far is perfect.”

Despite the worryingly small number of Asians involved in English professional football, Nabi believes that getting people from that community to play the game is not a problem.

But the Albion man feels issues arise when they are then challenged to take the next step.

He added: “If you go to local parks you’ll see hundreds of Asian kids who want to play football.

Adil Nabi joined the consultation forum at the Hawthorns on Tuesday

“The problem is progressing them from the comfort zone of playing in a park on a Sunday afternoon or playing in a Sunday league to training every week or going into full time football where you don’t know when your next day off is.”

“From my own experience, the drive came from Dad, Mum, big brother, my little brothers. Everything was about football for us, that was our passion.

“Many of my friends’ parents wanted them to play tennis, cricket, badminton or squash but my Dad said ‘just get a football’.

“At that time a lot of other parents were saying ‘why is he doing that, it’s a dead end thing. He should be playing cricket where there’s loads of Asians’ but Dad took a gamble and it has worked out.”

And he admits his father was so committed to his sons that he even quit his job to help further their careers. 

Nabi revealed: “He was a community worker but as my brothers and I got more serious about football he wanted a job where he could pick his hours so he became a private hire driver.

“The FA are doing a lot of great work and I’m pleased they’ve come here and listened to people’s views”

Adil Nabi 

“He didn’t want to do it but he felt it needed to be done. My Dad sacrificed a lot for us.

“When I was just eight we played away at Wrexham in the hail and I looked to my right and my Dad was the only parent stood there.”

Nabi is adamant having such a strong role model is what has made the difference in his career and he believes the Asian community as a whole needs a football icon to help drive youngsters from the park to becoming professionals.

He added: “I believe Asian football is just one big role model away from it really taking off. It takes one player to make it or one coach getting a top job for it to explode and suddenly there will be loads of coaches and loads of players.”

After reaping the benefits of having someone to look up to his entire life, Nabi admits he would like nothing more than to be that trailblazer for Asians in football.

He said: “My Dad played at semi-pro level so he was a role model in terms of commitment. He gave us that energy to keep going and not stop, even when you get knocked down.

“I think I can be the one to do that for the Asian community particularly with the club I’m at and the area we’re in with so many Asians in the local area.”