“He's at the start of his career now and everything is in front of him.”
Seventeen-year-old Easah Suliman from Hall Green, Birmingham, has signed his first professional contract with Aston Villa.
The Pakistani-origin player has been playing at the club since the age of eight, coming through the local recruitment process and the academy.
He has also represented Aston Villa in the Barclays U18 Premier League and the FA Youth Cup, and has captained the England U17 teams.
Suliman has finally made the leap up to the professional team, signing a two-year contract with the Midlands club.
Some of Europe’s most high-profile clubs, including the likes of Bayern Munich and Liverpool FC, have shown interest in acquiring Suliman’s signature. So Aston Villa are happy to have secured his services for the near future.
They view Suliman as a very competent player and ‘a versatile defender who can operate either at centre-back or left back and in centre midfield if required’.
The Academy Director at Aston Villa, Sean Kimberley said: “We’re delighted that Easah has signed his first professional contract with the club.
“He’s a Birmingham lad who’s come through the local recruitment process.
“He’s going away with England U17s next month and he’s continuing to make good progress both with them and here at Villa.
“He’s at the start of his career now and everything is in front of him.”
The club have said they will now work to develop his skills and to get the most out of his playing abilities in the hopes of continuing good progress for his future.
The news has also sparked great interest from the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). Director, Sardar Naveed, believes the up-and-coming star will inspire footballers in Pakistan and the local community.
He said that it is great news for Pakistani football fans: “We are very happy for him.”
He added: “Easah is born and raised in the UK. His aim is to play for England. And frankly, I doubt he would want to play for Pakistan.”
British-Asian youngsters in the top tier football are a rarity. Currently, Neil Taylor is the only British player of Asian descent playing in the Premier League.
In the Championship, Danny Tanveer Batth has developed into a stalwart at centre-half for his hometown team, Wolverhamton Wanderers.
Previously, the most high-profile Asians in the top flight have been defender Zesh Rehman and striker Michael Chopra.
Some hopeful young players like brothers Adil and Samir Nabi at West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool’s Yan Dhonda hope to make the step up to the top level.
Nevertheless, Asian presence at the highest level is almost non-existent. Asian children are often encouraged to continue their studies at university or find a stable well-paying trade.
Chasing after a dream as a professional footballer, with little guarantee of success, particularly after investing much time and effort, seems a risk riddled with futility.
FA coach and club scout, Manisha Tailor, said: “Often Asians stick within their community in predominately Asian-only groups and don’t integrate. Hopefully those that are good enough can make it and sign a pro contract.”
Ashish Joshi, a Sky News correspondent, said that the popularity of football within the Asian community is there. But he added: “The standard of coaching in all-Asian teams isn’t as high as you will see at more well-established clubs.”
Campaigner, Steven Sidhu, is reported by Joshi as saying that he wants the FA to educate the clubs, the coaches, the directors and the managers. At present, he believes that money is being pumped into the community but with little direction or aim.
Many agree with this view and believe that more needs to be done to integrate British players of Asian descent within the wider footballing community.
With the success of Easah Suliman, young Asian players might now be inspired to choose a career in football and follow in the footsteps of this talented young star.