Arsenal have launched a program aimed at encouraging South Asian communities to participate in football. The Emerging Strong, Young, South Asian Gunners event was held at the Gunners’ Hale End Academy on Saturday.
Children from London and the surrounding area at pre-academy (aged 7-8) and foundation-age (aged 9-11) were invited to come and show their talents at the same academy that recently spawned this like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
Parents and guardians then had the opportunity to hear from Academy staff such as Lee Herron (Head of Talent Identification), Yousuf Sajjad (Head of Young Talents U17 – U23), Nav Singh (Academy Sports Scientist) Steve Brown (Principal Coordinator for U8 – U16 Players) and Zubair Haleem (Senior Academy Physical Therapist) on elite player journeys and future activities.
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“We are proud to have Arsenal Academy at the forefront when it comes to engaging young South Asian talent in the London area,” Herron said. “This event is just a small first step with the PFA where we ultimately hope to provide more opportunities for young players while building lasting connections with South Asian communities.”
A recent study by Leeds Beckett University found that there are only 10 British Asian male footballers out of approximately 4,000 professionals in the UK. British Asians make up 7% of the population, but only 0.25% of professional footballers are of British Asian background. Through initiatives like Arsenal, Arsenal are trying to change that by showing the pathways into the game for South Asian communities.
“This project is about looking to the future and stimulating change by creating opportunity,” Sajjad said. “Arsenal have invested in partnership with the PFA in a long-term model that will provide support and hopefully continue to encourage the next generation of South Asian prospects as they pursue their dreams of playing football at the highest level.”
The event was held in partnership with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). The PFA’s Player Inclusion Executive, Riz Rehman, was in attendance and praised the work done by Arsenal in organizing the event.
“We’ve networked nationwide with all the clubs and academies over the last 18 months and they have an overwhelming appetite to reach out to underrepresented communities to find talent,” he said. “This event has been in the pipeline since earlier this year and I welcome all the input from the Academy, Club and Foundation staff to ensure we create a memorable day for all the players and families in attendance. This is the first Step as part of our longer-term strategy to see meaningful changes.”
Arsenal plan to host more events of this nature in the future as they look to open their doors to the South Asian community in London. It is part of a strategy being implemented by Per Mertesacker’s Talent ID team.