"It’s nice to see a local British Asian lad do so well and be so highly regarded.”
There is undoubtedly a lack of British Asians to watch in English football in 2016.
Despite 7% of the UK population being of South Asian descent, that percentage is not represented in British football.
There is just a single British Asian footballer in the Premier League, and only a handful in the leagues below.
But those figures are slowly improving. The players who have made it into professional football can inspire a whole generation to pursue their sporting dreams.
Therefore, with an Asian breakthrough in English football surely coming soon, DESIblitz brings you five of those influential players.
We count down 5 of the most exciting and promising British Asians to watch in English football.
5. Adil Nabi
Adil Nabi joined Premier League side West Bromwich Albion at the age of eight.
The British Asian forward progressed through the Albion youth teams alongside the similarly aged current first-team striker, Saido Berahino.
Impressive Academy performances led to Nabi being named ‘Young Player of the Year’ at the Asian Football Awards in 2013.
He was then named as Albion’s ‘Young Player of the Year’ at their end of season awards in 2015.
The awards led people to believe that Nabi could be one of the next major British Asians to watch in English football. However, he was unable to force his way into the senior West Brom team.
In 2015, he became the first player to be loaned from the English Premier League to the Indian Super League. He scored 3 goals in 10 appearances for the Delhi Dynamos.
Now 22-years-old, Nabi is playing for Peterborough United. He is certainly one of the British Asians to watch in English football as he tries to fire his team up the League One table.
4. Malvind Singh Benning
Mal Benning began his career with Walsall FC in 2010. He was named as the teams ‘Young Player of the Year’ at the end of season awards in 2014.
Unfortunately, the club chose to release him the following season after he made 46 senior appearances for them.
The defender was then signed by Mansfield Town in 2015 and has since become an ever-present in the first team.
Despite being a left-back, Benning offers real quality at both sides of the pitch. Since his arrival, he’s scored some real beauties which you can see in the video below.
During the 2015/16 season, he really was one of the British Asians to watch in English football. He was named as Mansfield’s ‘Young Player of the Year’ with an astonishing 77% of the vote.
His impressive start to life at League Two side, Mansfield, led to him signing a new contract in May 2016.
With a freshly-signed contract, the 23-year-old will be desperate to get back into League One. And that definitely makes him one of the British Asians to watch in English football for the coming seasons.
3. Easah Suliman
Easah Suliman is widely being labelled as one of the brightest British Asian prospects in football.
In August 2013, Suliman became the first British Asian captain of an England side at any level. Since captaining the U16 England team, he’s gone on to captain the England U17 and U19 sides too.
Suliman has been at Aston Villa FC since the age of nine, and in 2015, he signed a professional deal with the club.
Rajkiran, a lifelong Villa fan, says: “For his loyalty to Villa so far he will be in our hearts for life. It’s nice to see a local British Asian lad do so well and be so highly regarded.”
The 18-year-old prefers the centre-back position but has shown his versatility for both club and country. He is also comfortable playing right-back and in midfield.
At the 2015 Asian Football Awards, Suliman was named as the ‘Young Player of the Year’.
He is currently on loan at Cheltenham Town in League Two, and has already faced Mal Benning’s Mansfield side. That game on August 13, 2016, ended 1-1 with neither defender getting a clean sheet.
Easah Suliman is proving to be not only one of the British Asians to watch in English football domestically but also at international level.
2. Daniel Tanveer Batth
26-year-old ‘Danny’ Batth is in the prime of his career and is the current captain of Championship team, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He is a loyal Wolves player who joined at the age of ten. Batth captained the Wolves youth team and signed a professional deal with the club after the 2008/09 season.
In 2010, Batth was named as the ‘Young Professional of the Year’ at the end of season awards. Then, in 2012, he was the ‘Young Player of the Year’ at the Asian Football Awards.
Batth played all 46 games in 2013/14 as Wolves set a League One points record of 103. He has now made over 200 senior career appearances.
After signing a new 4-year contract in September 2016, Batth will be hoping to captain Wolves’ charge to the Premier League.
With the potential to become only the Premier League’s fourth Asian player, it makes Batth one of the British Asians to watch in English football.
1. Neil Taylor
Neil Taylor is the oldest player on our DESIblitz countdown of British Asians to watch in English football. But, he is the only footballer of South Asian descent in the Premier League.
The 27-year-old defender has now made over 200 senior career appearances. Taylor was a former Manchester City trainee before joining Wrexham in 2007, and then Swansea City in 2010.
He was ‘Player of the Year’ at both the 2013 and 2015 Asian Football Awards after impressive seasons with Swansea.
Taylor was eligible to represent India through his mother but instead chose Wales.
He played every minute for Wales at their historic Euro 2016 campaign where the nation reached their first major tournament semi-final. Taylor even scored a rare goal in Wales’ 3-0 win over Russia.
Despite scoring just 3 goals in 243 domestic appearances, Taylor is surely one of the main British Asians to watch in English football.
More British Asians to Watch in English Football?
DESIblitz took an in-depth look into the severe lack of British Asians in English football. There are quite simply not enough to reflect the South Asian population in the UK.
However, players like Nabi, Benning, Suliman, Batth, and Taylor are inspiring a whole generation by showing that it is possible.
Speaking to theFA.com, Easah Suliman says:
“I hope that I’m inspiring people around me and in my area to believe that they can achieve what they want with hard work […] I’m trying to do it to prove to those younger than me that they can achieve their dreams.”
More and more young British Asian players are joining club academies, and a bright future looks to be ahead.
Yan Dhanda (Liverpool), Simranjit Singh Thandi (Leicester City), and Rahis Nabi (West Bromwich Albion) are sure to be some of the brightest British Asians to watch in English football in the coming future.