2015 Asian Football Awards event at Wembley a huge success

2015 Asian Football Awards wembley
Michael McCann
The previous Asian Football Awards events were held in 2012 and 2013 before becoming a biennial event

The third Asian Football Awards where held at Wembley on Wednesday to celebrate the achievements of Asian in the beautiful game and representatives from Asian players, coaches and media were amongst those attending as awards were given, many primarily to recognise the contributions of those often forgotten.

Swansea City full-back Neil Taylor scooped the Player of the Year award after helping Wales reach the 2016 European Championships in France.

The event has previously been held in 2012 and 2013 though has become only biennial, with an increasing focus on integration to ensure such an occasion is not necessary in the future.

Noreen Kahn from BBC Asian Network hosted the evening alongside Sky Sports News presenter and reporter Dharmesh Sheth. And Sheth said that the event highlighted the need for a cultural shift to help more Asian into football.

“This event is a huge occasion, people have always asked me ‘why do you need an Asian Football Awards?’ and my answer is that it is good to have these awards, because our aim is to one day not need them.

“This is because we want the pool of Asian working in football to grow so that we will not need an award ceremony to highlight the achievements of Asians in the game.

“Change will not happen overnight as it is cultural change too, but I think the third generation has so many opportunities across business, playing & media so we are making progress. It is slightly slow progress, but I think it needs a cultural change and the authorities to carry on what they are doing and push it home.

He also spoke about the importance of having the support required, as Neil Taylor explained when talking about his story.

“Neil Taylor said that sometimes it needs a change in culture and he had the support of his parents, so I think parents of this current generation hold the key to getting more Asians into the game.

“Once we have the player pool of Asians increasing I think you will become to see the game becoming more representative of the society that we know now.”

Sports journalism has also seen many Asians making great strides: Sheth

Sheth also said that it was important that ethnicity did not come to define him as a broadcaster, and that the industry would reward emerging talent on merit.

“I see myself as a sports reporter who happens to be Asian, because once you start closeting yourself as an Asian sports reporter you are taking yourself away from what you actually want to do.

“There are a lot of people in the media who are Asian, who are into sports journalism making great strides and people look at those guys and can see that anything is possible.

“Anyone can get into media if they work hard enough. Personally I don’t think it is anything to do with race, colour, creed, age or gender – if you are good enough you will get that opportunity.”

Presenter for BBC Sport and Premier League TV Manish Bhasin explained that the event was important in recognising the contributions of Asians in football and promote future growth in this regard.

“We are here to celebrate a minority which is what makes this section of society the focus of these awards because they are battling against the mainstream for recognition,” he explained. “I have a foot in both camps being of Asian heritage and it is great to recognise people trying their best in an industry that is still very white-dominated.

“There is no harm in saying well done because we all know that despite having such a huge Asian population, who have settled here for so long and integrated with society, they have yet to really make a breakthrough on the playing front.

“If they do we have to highlight that as they are the role models for the next generation of British Asian so that can only be a good thing – the aims of this evening are very laudable.”

Hope Asian Football Awards are not needed in the future: Jes Jassal

Jes Jassal from organisers Inventive Sports said the evening was particularly important in creating Asian role models from which younger generations could follow.

“This is a platform to recognise the achievements and contributions of the Asian community and break down barriers.

“These events help create role models and inspire future generations and there cannot really be anything more important than that. We are very proud that the Asian Football Awards has got this far, we hope it can develop even further going forward until we don’t need it anymore.

“There are a lot of amazing people here tonight who have done a huge amount of good work.”

Kidderminster Harriers striker Gurjit Singh, 24, is of Indian heritage and won the non-league player award, for which Grays Athletic left-back Jey Siva was also a nominee.

Siva was part of the Championship-winning side at Wealdstone in 2013/14, and told me this event helps Asians becoming more receptive to football being a career, rather than only a hobby.

“I am proud to be nominated on a great evening to showcase Asians working in the football community. I have not experienced any racism, if you are good enough you play, I think sport is just a culture and it is lacking wider support in Asian backgrounds.

“I was lucky enough that my parents actually pushed me towards football but I know loads of friends for whom all life is about is having an education, being say a doctor or dentist, and that is the problem were are facing currently.

“Once you see a few more Asians in the Premier League parents will see that it is an absolute possibility, and therefore help their kids pursue that dream by taking them to training etc.”

Edited by Staff Editor


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