Dhanda: South Asian players can empower

Swansea attacking midfielder Yan Dhanda is convinced he can help British South Asians across the game thrive in his new role with Kick It Out. The 22-year-old is already one of the most influential So

Dhanda: South Asian players can empower

Swansea attacking midfielder Yan Dhanda is convinced he can help British South Asians across the game thrive in his new role with Kick It Out.

The 22-year-old is already one of the most influential South Asians in football and has signalled his intent to play a part in reshaping different areas of the game by joining Kick It Out's newly-created Player Advisory Group, chaired by head of player engagement Troy Townsend, alongside former PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle.

The diverse group features Dhanda's former Liverpool academy team-mate Rhian Brewster, battle-tested Lionesses Anita Asante (Aston Villa) and Gilly Flaherty (West Ham), Leicester Women's promotion-winning captain Holly Morgan and Watford defender Renee Hector. Wycombe's Joe Jacobson, non-League player Danny Mills from Dulwich Hamlet and Brentford ambassador Marcus Gayle are also involved.

There are currently less than a dozen professionally contracted South Asian footballers in the UK, with Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari exclusively telling Sky Sports News last year the level of British South Asian under-representation is "the single largest statistical anomaly in English football"[1] adding everyone needs to do more.

Swansea City's Yan Dhanda sports a protective mask during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. Picture date: Saturday January 23, 2021 2:40
Yan Dhanda exclusively told Sky Sports News he's grateful for all the messages of support after he was subjected to racist abuse on social media

Kick It Out are creating a South Asian Action Group to address this, with Dhanda and other influential figures expected to feed into it.

Dhanda told Sky Sports News: "My main aim is to empower young South Asian players coming up behind me that want to make it in the professional game.

"When I had the opportunity to join Kick It Out's Advisory Board I jumped at it. I want to use this platform to achieve positive change, and by working together we can definitely do this."

Mal Benning of Mansfield Town in action during the Sky Bet League Two match between Northampton Town and Mansfield Town at PTS Academy Stadium on April 13, 2019 in Northampton, United Kingdom 0:44
Mansfield Town full-back Mal Benning describes the challenges he had to overcome to make it as a professional footballer

'I just want to see change'

Dhanda was targeted with racist abuse online[2] following Swansea's 3-1 FA Cup loss to Manchester City in February.

Fellow Punjabi footballer Mal Benning told Sky Sports News at the time that he was "taken aback"[3] by the abuse and that he had reached out to Dhanda to support him.

Benning is also part of Kick It Out's Player Advisory Group and said he too is determined to improve the footballing landscape for South Asians in the game.

"I just want to see change," Benning said.

Punjabi Villans 0:40
Arjan Raikhy's success in Aston Villa's FA Youth Cup campaign is making South Asian youngsters believe they can also make it in football, says Punjabi Villans co-founder Ricky Cheema

"I have experienced racial abuse online and Kick It Out were the first ones there to help me out with it and I feel by joining them I can help anyone from a South Asian background in the future."

The first British-Bangladeshi to play professionally in England, Anwar Uddin, completes the 11-strong advisory group.

Uddin, who is now assistant manager to Danny Searle at Aldershot, added: "At times as a young player you sometimes feel isolated, you feel like a bit of a circus act because there are so few British Asians that play football. To be able to have the support and that guidance is really important."

PFA hosts British South Asian Player event[4]

Some of the best talent from across the South Asian community gathered at the Bridgestone Arena near Wembley Stadium last week for a first-of-its-kind player event as part of the PFA's Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (AIMS).

Professional footballers Dinesh Gillela - who captained Bournemouth's U21s to two trophy wins last season - Manchester United U23s midfielder Zidane Iqbal and AEK Larnaca full-back Simranjeet Singh Thandi joined scholars Sonny Singh (Sunderland) and Yasin Arai (Stevenage), and around 15 youngsters enrolled at academies across the divisions at the event at north London's Bridgestone Arena.

Millwall coach Abdul Habib and Panjab FA international manager Manraj Singh Sucha put the players through their paces, while parents networked and shared their experiences with one another before the younger academy kids got the opportunity to take part in a Q&A with the scholars and pro players.

The PFA scheme aims to enhance the experience of South Asian footballers at all levels of the professional game by creating a structured network of support that allows them to thrive.

Meanwhile, Sky Sports News has been told 105-year-old west London grassroots club Indian Gymkhana are set for a groundbreaking collaboration with a major sportswear giant.

Indian Gymkhana declined to comment when contacted by Sky Sports News.

British South Asians in Football

For more stories, features and videos, visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Football page on skysports.com[8] and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital platforms.