"I didn’t see any players that looked like me on TV"
Football is the most popular sport within the UK, but British Asian female footballers are extremely bleak within the beautiful game.
Men’s football has seen a rise in prominent stars.
This includes Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury and Manchester United youngster, Zidane Iqbal.
However, this progress is rarely seen in women’s football. In 2020, The Guardian startlingly reported:
“British Asian men make up only 0.2% of players in England’s top four divisions.
“The number of professional British Asian women footballers are even less prominent from the WSL down to the lower Northern and Southern National Leagues.”
Although looking back on history, it is quite surprising how stagnant the women’s game has been, in terms of representation.
In 1999, Aman Dosanj was the first British Asian footballer to officially represent England at any level. So, it would seem this progress would’ve carried on.
But it is only in 2022 that we are seeing a surge of British Asian female footballers succeed in the modern game.
DESIblitz looks at five top British Asian female footballers changing the face of English football.
Simran Jhamat set the sporting world alight when she was spotted playing for Sporting Khalsa in Walsall, England.
Although this was at junior level, the midfielder was quickly snapped up by Aston Villa’s Girls’ Centre of Excellence between 2009-2010.
Spending seven energetic seasons with the Midlands club, she transitioned to Women’s Super League (WSL) giants, Liverpool, in 2017.
The WSL is the highest top-flight league in women’s football. So, for Jhamat, this was a trailblazing moment.
In January 2019, former Liverpool manager Vicky Jepson handed Jhamat her debut against Brighton.
Although the match ended in a 2-0 defeat, Jhamat still shone with her dribbling and trickery.
Subsequently, she joined Leicester City where she made 12 appearances before going to Coventry United in January 2020.
However, her stint at Championship side Lewes FC in the 2020/21 campaign solidified Jhamat’s appetite for football.
Her 17 appearances caught the attention of Bristol City, moving there in July 2021.
Becoming the clubs first British South Asian player, Jhamat revealed:
“It’s a proud moment for me and hopefully I can be a role model to the younger generation and that’s all I want to be.”
“Being an Asian, to bring other Asians up into whatever you can do really in sport and in anything.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, what background you’re from.”
The British Asian female footballer has also earned international recognition.
She became the first Punjabi girl to score for England U17’s at a competitive level when she blasted the net in a 6-0 win over Slovakia in 2017.
The 21-year-old is an incredibly gifted talent who realises the type of impact she can have on and off the field.
Born in London, Rosie Kmita had an atypical route to becoming a professional player.
Like many British Asians, Kmita was focused on education but her passion for football remained strong.
Between 2012-2016, the British Indian spent most of her early career playing for Tottenham Hotspur.
Although during this spell, the pacey winger racked up 16 appearances for Florida-based club Saint Leo Lions as well.
She spent time in the lower divisions with Cambridge and Gillingham between 2016-2017 and eventually moved to FA WSL 2 club, London Bees.
Kmita then joined West Ham United in October 2017 where she linked up with her twin sister Mollie.
When the club gained entry into the WSL in 2018, Kmita feared she may be axed before being offered her first professional contract.
But to her surprise, the opposite happened.
She became the first women’s player to sign a professional contract in West Ham United history.
Speaking to The FA in 2019, Kmita expressed:
“The exposure has been unbelievable and is sure to inspire a whole new generation.
“Every year, football is becoming a more viable career for young girls of all backgrounds.”
Making a total of 38 appearances for The Hammers, Kmita scored 14 goals and departed the club in 2019.
Before making 1 appearance for the London Bees between 2019-2020, she joined Watford in 2021.
Her energetic vision, footwork and intricate passing is a delight for all to see and has excelled her presence within football.
She presents the FA’s WSL Preview Show with her sister Mollie.
She also appears on Sky, talkSPORT and was a key voice in the 2019 Women’s World Cup coverage.
The youngest yet similarly influential British Asian female footballer on this list is 15-year-old Layla Banaras.
Growing up in Birmingham, England, Banaras was conflicted from an early age between embracing her Muslim culture and her love for football.
Having witnessed her brother’s football matches, her excitement grew and the then 8-year-old joined a girls youth team in 2015.
This was run by Birmingham City Football Club where her skills and passion flourished.
However, in 2019, Banaras was faced with her first barrier as an athlete – Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.
Banaras was 12 years old when she first fasted and it required her to not drink or eat between sunrise and sundown.
The starlet realised she was struggling to meet the nutritional demands of an elite footballer.
Instead of delaying her career or folding under the circumstances, the inspiring Banaras came up with her own Ramadan planner.
The planner was a mix of nutritional advice, tracking systems and meal guides to make sure she had the right blend of fluids and calories to support her.
Working a treat, the footballer has maintained her schedule without jeopardising her progress.
More importantly, this set the benchmark for other Muslim players in and around Birmingham who wanted to use the planner as well.
Despite her age, Banaras captains her youth team and impressively practices with Birmingham City’s under-21’s squad.
Impressively, she was a part of activewear giants Under Armour’s 2022 ‘The Only Way Is Through’ campaign, where she expressed:
“I didn’t see a lot of Muslim or South Asian girls playing.
“I didn’t see any players that looked like me on TV, especially in the women’s game.
“Since then, the numbers have started to really take off.
“Now there’s loads of girls who are Muslim playing in those leagues.”
The budding defender hopes to inspire other young Muslim girls to take up football and yearns to become the first Muslim woman to play for England.
Born in Burton, England, Kira Rai is a special talent who has been playing the wonderful game since she was 7 years old.
She admits her family was a big inspiration in her journey as a footballer.
Kicking the ball around with her dad and cousins showed her the value of the sport.
Building that connection from an early age meant that Rai’s appreciation for the game is invaluable.
She quickly showed her attributes to onlookers and joined Burton Albion before Derby County Ladies snapped her up as an aspiring U10s player.
Although she was the only British Asian girl at the trials, Rai admits that thought never crossed her mind.
It is this passionate and focused attitude that has allowed the British Asian female footballer to excel at the highest level.
Spending over a decade at The Rams, the 22-year-old featured in the club’s new kit launch at Pride Park in 2021.
Rai is sponsored by the official Derby County supporters’ group, the Punjabi Rams, to which she explained the importance of the women’s game:
“I think the stigma associated with women in football still remains and continues to hinder participation.”
“Although the media coverage of women’s football has improved I think it is still a barrier to overcome in order to increase participation and attract more attention to the sport.”
Using the stigma attached to women’s football, especially as a British Asian, Rai uses this as motivation to succeed.
She has spoken on countless platforms, including Sky Sports and the winger is undoubtedly changing the face of the women’s game.
Millie Chandarana is a box to box midfielder who started her career at 8 years old.
Although Chandarana is a die-hard Manchester City fan, she spent time at their arch rivals’ academy, Manchester United.
Having impressed with her tenacity and ball control until she was aged 15, she went on to join Blackburn Rovers for a year.
Aged 17, she was handed her first-team debut in 2014 and went on to make 18 appearances until 2016.
The star then switched to Dubai to play for Leoni FC.
Gaining immense experience, the British Asian female footballer was somewhat surprised with the avid interest girls had in football there.
However, this shift in attention to the women’s game provided the uplifting energy Chandarana needed to pursue her dream.
The rising athlete returned to the UK and led the Loughborough Foxes to the National Championship finals – a fantastic feat considering it was their first appearance there for five years.
She then spent two seasons in Italy.
The trailblazer played for Tavagnacco in the 2019/20 season where she netted against Serie A giants Juventus.
In the 2020/21 season, she played for San Marino and made 22 appearances for the Italian club.
With a fantastic array of skills, experience and knowledge of the game, the British Asian came full circle.
Rejoining Blackburn Rovers in September 2021, the 24-year-old has established herself as a mainstay in the Championship side.
But Chandarana has noticed the welcomed shift in the sport, telling Sky Sports in 2022:
“The level is so much higher than when I left England.
“It’s so so much faster, it’s much more technical and I’m still learning, I’m always learning.”
This emphasises how evolved the women’s game is and the aggressive push it needs to become even bigger.
Given Chandarana’s exploration of the different cultural aspects of the game, there is no doubt she will continue to flourish in England.
Additionally, she serves as an inspiration to how other British Asian females can push their limits and dream beyond the boundaries in front of them.
These influential British Asian female footballers are certainly changing the face of the modern game.
Promising stars like Sandeep Tak and Rabia Azam are evident of this.
Similarly, it highlights how more British Asian women are infiltrating football.
Not only are they impacting young British Asians, but their advocacy for women athletes is encouraging more young girls to pursue sports.
The ever-growing fanbase and push from mainstream media mean there is no doubt that we will see a further spike in these types of sportswomen.