Who is the Premier League’s 1st British Asian Footballer?

It has been misreported that Jimmy Carter was the Premier League’s first British Asian footballer. In actual fact, it was Robert Rosario.

Who is the Premier League's 1st British Asian Footballer f

"I'm so proud of being a former professional."

The Premier League is home to a wide range of cultures and ethnicities, including British Asians.

It has long been reported that Jimmy Carter was the first.

However, it has recently been revealed that it was misreported.

In actual fact, former Coventry City, Norwich City and Nottingham Forest forward Robert Rosario is the first.

Daniel Kilvington, Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, revealed the news which had been passed on by Rosario’s cousin Clayton Rosario.

Rosario’s journey from the lower leagues to the Premier League is a testament to his perseverance in becoming a trailblazer for British Asians.

We dive into his early years, the challenges he faced and how he made it into the Premier League.

Early Life & Challenges

Who is the Premier League's 1st British Asian Footballer - early

Robert Rosario’s father is Anglo-Indian and was born in Kolkata, then known as Calcutta.

He worked at a Heinz factory and was also a cyclist and bodybuilder.

But Rosario’s interest in football was because of his German mother and it came after watching the 1974 World Cup with her, which West Germany won.

He recalled: “We sat there, snuggled up together and watched every World Cup game.

“I turned to my mum and said ‘I’m going to be a professional footballer, mum’. And she never missed a game.”

However, the prevalence of racism made it a difficult time to be of Asian heritage in the UK.

As a result, Robert Rosario “shied” away from his father’s heritage.

He explained: “I’m super proud because I love my dad to death, but when I was playing, when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, it was really difficult.

“It was a really difficult time racially.

“Being from a mixed culture, people didn’t know if I was Black, white, Asian, Indian, Pakistani.

“There was a lot of grief, there was a lot of racism. I got it from everyone. The only thing that saved me was being a footballer.

“When you’re a good footballer, people accept you.

“The 70s and 80s were rough. I wanted to be white and English. I’m ashamed to admit that.”

“I shied away from my Dad’s side [of the family]. As a young football player, I wanted to be accepted and I was scared.

“I wish I could go back and embrace it more, and stand up and be brave and say ‘I’m half Anglo-Indian, I don’t care what you think about me’.

“But when you’re 14, 15, 16, you just want to be accepted and I wasn’t mature enough.

“I feel I have an excuse because I was just a young kid who was trying to fit in.

“It was too difficult a topic. People in football back then didn’t want to cause any ripples. People just didn’t want to rock the boat.”

Jimmy Carter

Who is the Premier League's 1st British Asian Footballer - jimmy

It was previously thought that James ‘Jimmy’ Carter was the first British Asian to play in the Premier League.

Born to an Indian father and a British mother, Carter was a winger, playing for the likes of Arsenal, Millwall and Liverpool.

But Robert Rosario started up front for Coventry City against Middlesborough at Highfield Road on the opening weekend of the first Premier League season on August 15, 1992.

Carter’s first Premier League game was three days later, on August 18, when Arsenal faced Blackburn Rovers.

Carter and Rosario’s stories have parallels and the former only publicly spoke about being British Asian after retiring from his playing career.

Carter told Sky Sports News: “My journey wasn’t easy – you did have that racist element in football.

“That’s probably one of the reasons I didn’t feel the need to stand up on a soap box and say my Dad’s got Asian heritage.

“It was hard enough to get back into football. I guess from my point of view, I didn’t want to make it even harder for my career from that point on. I think that was a real risk.

“Don’t get me wrong, if someone asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ I would never ever hide [it] or be ashamed. I was always proud of it.”

His Big Break

Robert Rosario began his career in non-league football, joining Hillingdon Borough from Harrow Borough in August 1983 at the age of 17.

In nine Southern League starts, Rosario scored five goals.

This alerted scouts and in December 1983, he joined Norwich City, making his debut aged 18.

Although he was a forward, Rosario was not a prolific goalscorer.

He spent eight years at Norwich, scoring 18 goals in 126 appearances.

Speaking about his lack of goals, Rosario said:

“I’m very aware of what people thought about me, that I didn’t score enough goals.”

There may not have been ‘enough’ goals but one was very memorable.

Then aged 23, Rosario scored a 25-yard goal at Carrow Road against Southampton during the 1989/90 season.

It ended up winning ITV’s goal of the season.

The Premier League

In 1991, Rosario joined Coventry City for £600,000 and was seen as the successor to the iconic Cyrille Regis.

There, he played in the newly-formed Premier League and made history by becoming the first British Asian footballer to play in the league.

It was in his second season after the arrival of new manager Bobby Gould and a new striker, Micky Quinn, that Rosario began to feature more.

He provided lots of chances for Quinn, who scored 17 goals in 26 games in the 1992-93 season.

In March 1993, as Coventry’s financial situation worsened, Rosario was sold to Nottingham Forest for £450,000.

His time at Coventry City ended with eight goals in 59 games.

At Nottingham Forest, he scored just three goals in 27 games.

Rosario’s last appearance for Forest came in April 1994, as injuries began to get the better of him.

Although he was fully fit for the 1995-96 season, he was no longer part of Frank Clark’s plans at the City Ground.

As a result, his time playing professional football in England came to an end when he was 30.

Despite the premature end, Rosario is proud of his career and said:

“I was just a journeyman-pro. I played for 14 years in England. I’m so proud of being a former professional.”

Later Career

Robert Rosario moved to the United States and spent the final four years of his professional football career playing in the A-League, the US second tier.

He first joined Carolina Dynamo, where he contributed his skills and experience to the team.

Rosario signed for Charleston Battery in 1998 before returning to Carolina Dynamo.

He spent two years at the club before retiring in 2000.

Rosario ended up coaching the Carolina Dynamo a year later.

He still lives in the United States and continues to coach.

Rosario said:

“Coaching for me is way more important. I’ve worked with thousands of kids. I love my job.”

One of the children he coached was his own son Gabriel, a goalkeeper who moved from North Carolina to England to join Reading’s academy in 2016, before signing with Huddersfield Town.

Rosario is currently a coach and the Senior Boys director at Charlotte Independence Soccer Club in North Carolina.

Although Robert Rosario’s career is not as memorable as other footballers, he stands as a Premier League trailblazer.

Overcoming racism and career setbacks, Rosario’s legacy continues to inspire not only those who share his heritage but all who believe in the principles of inclusivity and equal opportunity.

As a British Asian, he paved the way for others to play in the Premier League.

Since the start of the Premier League, other British Asians who have made a mark on the league include Michael Chopra, who made his debut in 2003 for Newcastle, Fulham’s Zesh Rehman in 2004, Neil Taylor, who won promotion to the Premier League with Swansea in 2011 and Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury, who made his Premier League debut in 2017.



Dhiren is a News & Content Editor who loves all things football. He also has a passion for gaming and watching films. His motto is to "Live life one day at a time".



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