A campaign to increase the numbers of South Asian youngsters playing the beautiful game in Britain has been accused of promoting segregation even further.
Pakistani-Muslim Kashif Siddiqi was once on the books at Northampton Town and Arsenal but only 10 other South Asians are said to have played at a professional level in the UK. His new initiative, the Altus League, aims to bring football into “under-represented communities” and the pilot project has so far focused on London and Bradford.
The recent competition saw more than 70 young people, aged between 16 and 18-years-old, take part over eight weeks with the Bradford Bolts facing the East London Lions in the final at the FA’s national football centre, St George’s Park.
Mr Siddiqi, who runs the league through the Kashif Siddiqi Foundation, told Bradford’s Telegraph & Argus newspaper that providing a space for South Asians to enjoy themselves while picking up tangible life skills was “a big win in my book”.
“Football has an extraordinary capacity to unite. Whatever our background, our race, our ability, football transcends borders, and it’s at grassroots level, where the formative years of many young people’s lives are spent, that this message is most important,” the former Pakistan international added.
But the news was greeted with anger and dismay in some quarters, with readers questioning the whole premise of the scheme.
Resident Dale Mailey posed the rhetorical question “nothing builds integration like segregation eh?” before carrying on: “But that aside, I would say there is an abundance of Asian football teams in Bradford at one of the many football centres around the city. Where are the stats to back up this shortfall of Asian people playing football? I would say there is a shortfall of female Asian footballers but there’s no mention of this here?”
Another poster, calling themselves ‘cheesemeister’, said: “Yet another example of positive division. Why is this needed in the 21st century? This does nothing to extinguish the flames of lack of integration.
“Why are they also claiming to be from South Asia when those that will be getting involved will be 3rd or 4th generation UK-born. Playing the race card to suit their own needs time and time again.”
And a third person added: “We all know where the problem lies. It lies with a religious community that refuses to integrate and is implacably opposed to normal British values.
“It’s no surprise then that this league is based in Bradford. When are the likes of Hinchcliffe (Bradford Council leader) going to wake up and realise that there is a reason why the only investment Bradford gets from the Government is cash to address our Islamic problem?”
What do you think? Is this a good idea to try and get more South Asians playing football? Or does it encourage segregation? Let us know in the comments below…
Standing up for those without a voice in Britain
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