British Asian footballers
When businessman Charanjit Singh Gill bought non-league Southall Football Club in 2010 his dream was not just to win points, promotions and silverware.
Founded in 1871, the west London club already had a fine tradition of producing footballers who went on to play at higher levels, most notably former England, Tottenham, Queen’s Park Rangers and Newcastle United striker Les Ferdinand and former England winger Alan Devonshire, who won the FA Cup with West Ham United in 1980.
Located in the heart of one of the country’s largest Asian areas, Gill had ambitions to forge a club that represented the local community and established itself as a football factory for the British Asian stars of tomorrow.
Charanjit Singh Gill
Just over 70 per cent of Southall’s population originate from the Indian subcontinent but of the 10 teams that make up its football club, which includes a first team, reserve team and eight youth teams, only six players are Asian.
Having invested more than £100, 000 of his own money, Gill is adamant that his dream has not died but it has certainly stalled and not for want of trying.
Gill regularly speaks at schools, places of worship and on local radio stations to raise awareness about the club and how locals can get involved. Free weekly coaching sessions are also on offer with Football Association-qualified coaches, attracting dozens of youngsters but hardly any Asians.
Last month, a week long football camp organised jointly by Southall and Chelsea for local youngsters was cancelled because of a lack of interest, despite the Premier League club offering the services of its coaches and a first-team player.
Gill welcomes the FA’s plan of action but insists that the time has now come for the Asian community to get involved in the game and that racism can no longer be used as an excuse.
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The 54-year-old Southall owner maintains that there is no shortage of local Asian youngsters playing football but there is a reluctance to get involved within the mainstream of the game by joining FA-affiliated clubs such as Southall, which plays in the Spartan South Midlands First Division. Many prefer to compete in their own teams and competitions.