Meet the man who’s committed to getting more young Asians into football
Asians being underrepresented in the big game is not a new phenomenon; it’s always been that way.
It’s not a native sport to any South Asian countries yet it has mass appeal both abroad and in the UK. There are in fact dozens of young players in clubs all over the country, waiting for their break. There are also all sorts of supporters working away behind the scenes, opening up opportunities to such future talent.
One such man is Jas Jassal, a huge footy fanatic and advocate of getting more Asians into football.
Yet he doesn’t make a living from it, Jas puts all his spare time into volunteering, giving up evenings and weekends for the cause. His enthusiasm and dedication was recognised earlier this summer when Jas was selected to be an Olympic torchbearer for giving 700 hours to community service.
Shocked by his nomination, Jas recalls: ‘I was absolutely gobsmacked; I kept thinking they had the wrong person. I felt very proud to be able to represent my nation and greatly appreciated the gesture.’
Jas was also recently presented with a ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award by the Middlesex Football Association for his work with Queens Park Rangers to provide support, guidance and mentoring to young footballers.
He believes there is nothing more inspiring than having a role model who will show you the way. He reveals: ‘When I was younger although I used to play football growing up, it never crossed my mind that I could pursue football as a career. However it’s different for today’s generation, they should be given the necessary pathways and opportunities for them to be able to break into the industry.’
He admits there’s also a need for a change in attitude by parents and explains: ‘The older generation used to stress the importance of education but they are now realising that having a sport under your belt is just as essential. It introduces many life long skills like social, communication and team building skills.’
Luckily Jas’ own parents did see the benefits of sport which is what spurred him on with his volunteering.
In particular Jas who is a member of the Middlesex Football Association’s Race and Equality Advisory Group, is also involved with a youth project for the Queens Park Rangers in Southall, the heart of West London’s Asian community.
He explains: ‘It’s a ground-breaking scheme where mentors work alongside children from the age of 16 years and up whilst they are still studying their GCSE’s and A-levels and side by side help them either get into coaching, mentoring or playing football. The idea of combining mentoring and education has been hugely popular.’
As well as getting young Asians involved in football, Jas is keen to introduce the idea of volunteering and the benefits that it can have. He enthuses: ‘I personally thrive on volunteering and I would love to become a volunteering ambassador and encourage more people into it. Not only does it look good on your CV, it also makes you feel worthy as a person, and it is such a selfless act that brings about so many benefits.’
There’s clearly a lot of work ahead before there are properly recognised Asian players in mainstream football, but Jas is confident that the movement is happening. He says: ‘Clubs are starting to realise that they need to look out for Asian players who are talented - I really think in the next 10 years we will see some signed up.’
One of the common stereotypes of why there aren’t many Asians in sport is due to their poor diet and exercise regime, something which Jas does not believe is true. He says: ‘This generation of Asian children are definitely more concerned with their diet and have been educated about the health benefits of exercise so this excuse will no longer wash!’
For young Asians trying to break into the football industry Jas’s advice is to come out of your comfort zone by not being afraid to show off you skills. He concludes: ‘I would say that every child has an opportunity they just need to be seen by the decision makers and hopefully this is something I can help with.’
Get involved! Visit www.inventivesports.co.uk
By Kanchan Tooray