“I want to promote them"
Mesut Ozil says he will give British South Asian footballers a chance to shine with the launch of the Football For Peace Mesut Ozil Centre.
The development centre will be hosted by the University of Bradford.
Football and life skill sessions will be held at League Two side Bradford’s training ground.
The development centre will also provide workshops for parents to help build the relationship between British South Asians and the football community.
Fenerbahçe midfielder Mesut Ozil said:
“I have always been surprised why the South Asian community are only allowed to be fans of the game.
“Why are we not seeing more players or managers breaking into professional football?”
Despite making up around 8% of the UK population, less than 0.25% of players across the leagues in England are from a South Asian background.
Excited to join hands with @iamkashsiddiqi for the UKs 1st ever platform for #AsiansInFootball & Ethnically Diverse Communities.
Thank you to @InnareeWellness @FA @UniofBradford @officialbantams pic.twitter.com/cpprkgOSFs
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) October 6, 2021
Mesut, who is of Turkish origin, was born in Gelsenkirchen in Germany.
The footballer added:
“I want to promote them, give them an opportunity to be successful both on and off the pitch.
“I myself am from an ethnically diverse background and understand the challenges.
“I hope the Football For Peace Mesut Ozil Centre will become the platform they need.”
Former British South Asian player Kashif Siddiqi is the co-founder of Football For Peace.
Kashif says that the development centre in Bradford is to be the “first as part of a nationwide initiative”.
The former footballer says:
“The aim is to promote opportunities for members of ethnically diverse communities to be able to fulfil their aspirations by providing pathways into elite football and education”.
Kashif added: “Football has given me so much and working with Mesut we want to create a platform inside the football pyramid between professional clubs and also our community.”
To mark South Asian Heritage Month in July 2021, the Football Association (FA) released a six-part video series that featured players, coaches and match officials of Asian heritage.
They discussed their individual journeys in the game.
England manager Gareth Southgate accepted that aspiring South Asian footballers have faced challenges that have held the community back from the game.
In the FA video, Gareth said: “We should be looking at how we scout.
“Historically, there has been a sort of unconscious bias, maybe the perception that some Asian players were not as athletic, they weren’t as strong.
“That is such a ridiculous generalisation.”
Several Premier League and English Football League clubs have signed up for the initiative.
It is hoped that the Bradford centre will be the first of many to open nationwide.