Premier League focused on helping young players from South Asian communities

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May is Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage (AAPI) Month and the Premier League is focusing on how it can continue to work alongside communities from South Asia as its popularity around the world continues to grow.

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To celebrate AAPI Month in May, we are focusing on the impact Asian players have had in the Premier League and the new initiative the league has started to help support and develop more talent from AAPI communities, particular from British South Asian communities.

Our partners in the UK at Sky Sports have a page focusing on soccer news and stories from the South Asian community in the UK.

Below are more details on the players from Asia who have already had an impact in the Premier League, plus the plans the PL has put in place to make sure many more follow in their footsteps in the future.


Celebrating the PL’s Asian stars who are leading the way

Tottenham forward Heung-min Son is the main man when it comes to Asian players having success in the Premier League and the list of superstars is plentiful if you think of Park-Ji sung, Shinji Okazaki, Maya Yoshida and Ki Sung-yueng as there have been so many stars from China, Japan and South Korea who have starred in the PL too.

But when it comes to players from South Asia there has been a lack of opportunities for young players, particularly players from the British South Asian community.

Current estimations from the UK government state that well over 5 million Asian people call the UK home. That is well over seven percent of the population but just a handful of players from British South Asian backgrounds are in the professional game.

Leicester City academy product and England U21 midfielder Hamza Choudhury is of South Asian heritage (his mother hails from Bangladesh and his father from Grenada) and he has spoken to the BBC about his trips back to Bangladesh as a youngster.

“A few of my childhood memories are of Bangladesh. Being there, just being able to do what you want,” Choudhury said. “You see kids walking around at 10 o’clock at night, not a care in the world… freedom and completely safe.

“People were definitely surprised that I could speak Bengali. I had a little afro when I was a kid, so all the kids used to find me quite interesting and run around after me. We used to go there every other year while we were growing up for two to three weeks – it was nice. Very special.

“It’s my heritage and my culture, so it’s nice. It’s really nice going back. I think it also humbles you as a kid and it shows you different parts of the world because when you grow up in England you can live in a bit of a bubble. To go there opens your eyes to see what kinds of struggles people actually go through, so it is humbling.”

The likes of Neil Taylor (Swansea, Aston Villa) and Michael Chopra (Newcastle) have also flown the flag for British South Asian communities in the Premier League in the past but there is a plan for many others to follow in their path.

Right now Manchester United and Iraq national team midfielder Zidane Iqbal, 19, is creating a name for himself at Old Trafford.

In December 2021 he became the first British-born South Asian player to make a first team appearance for Manchester United and it is hoped he’s the first of many more British-born Asian players to break through.


Premier League
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 08: Zidane Iqbal of Manchester United in action during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Manchester United and BSC Young Boys at Old Trafford on December 8, 2021 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Premier League commits to improving pathway for South Asian players

As for the Premier League itself, it is committed to helping young players find a pathway into clubs.

“The Premier League has launched the South Asian Action Plan alongside Kick It Out, to help address the underrepresentation of British South Asian players within the Academy system. The new initiative will support one of the key commitments of the League’s ongoing No Room For Racism Action Plan, to enhance player pathways and help diversify the workforce within the professional game.

“The South Asian Action Plan (SAAP) will have an initial focus on players entering the Academy system in the Under-9 to Under-11 age groups, when most boys join a club. This will include analysis and research to better understand what the current barriers to entry are for South Asian players.

“Alongside this, increasing South Asian representation within the Academy workforce will be a key component of the action taken, as well as providing equality, diversity and inclusion education sessions for existing Talent ID and recruitment professionals. The South Asian Action Plan is a long-term project which will enable us to look at and improve the diversity of everyone within the Academy system, both on and off the pitch,” said Neil Saunders, Director of Football at the Premier League.

The Premier League added: “The partnership with Kick It Out will provide us with independent diversity and inclusion expertise and enable us to further enhance connections between the Premier League and South Asian communities.”

England national team leading the charge

As for the England national team, its head coach Gareth Southgate previously told the FA (in this video) that the Three Lions are looking at ways they can help support the South Asian community and the young players within it.

“We should be looking at how we scout,” Southgate said  “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 [as other players]. That is such a ridiculous generalization.

“In a lot of communities now, football is being played, in all sorts of variety of areas, so, I think [in terms of] scouting the Asian community, we’ve got to be creative in getting into the places where some of these kids might be playing. And encouraging them into broader leagues where they can be assessed more easily against other players, and then making that step into the academy system.”

Premier League
SEVILLE, SPAIN – OCTOBER 15: Gareth Southgate, Manager of England celebrates victory after the UEFA Nations League A Group Four match between Spain and England at Estadio Benito Villamarin on October 15, 2018 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia vs Mexico: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Mexico needs a win to have hope of reaching the World Cup knockout rounds, while Saudi Arabia’s hopes of the final 16 may require the same at Stadium 974 in Doha on Wednesday.

The Saudis stunned Argentina 2-1 In Lusail to open the tournament but could not repeat the feat against Poland at Education City in Al Rayyan on Saturday to leave themselves with three points through two matches.

STREAM LIVE SAUDI ARABIA vs MEXICO

Mexico remains without a win after their scoreless draw versus Poland led to a Lionel Messi-inspired loss to Argentina In Lusail.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Saudi Arabia vs Mexico.


How to watch Saudi Arabia vs Mexico live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Wednesday Nov. 30
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Saudis have arguably been the most fun team at the tournament amongst non-powers, always running and getting exceptional goalkeeping. Salem Al-Dawsari was very good in both games but his missed penalty before halftime against Poland looms large of a match that could’ve been 1-1 going to the break and instead ended 2-0.

Mexico has not scored at the tournament so far, and Raul Jimenez has only been used as a super sub. Hirving Lozano and Alexis Vega combined for just three shot attempts before being subbed out of the Poland loss, while Lozano and Henry Martin combined for two versus Poland (Vega attempted five). They need better up top to keep up their streak of making Round of 16 appearances at the World Cup.


Saudi Arabia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 51
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group B)
Coach: Herve Renard
Key players: Salem Al-Dawsari, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammed Al-Owais

Mexico quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 13
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 16
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (2nd place)
Coach: Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino
Key players: Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez

Poland vs Argentina: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Poland and Argentina surely didn’t plan to reach the marquee match of World Cup Group C with their knockout round status in doubt, but it’s been that kind of tournament in Qatar.

Poland remains unbeaten in Qatar after beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 in Al Rayyan, adding to the point it earned from a scoreless draw with Mexico In Doha to give it top billing in the group heading into Wednesday’s match.

STREAM LIVE POLAND vs ARGENTINA

Argentina, meanwhile, rebounded from a 2-1 tournament-opening loss to Saudi Arabia In Lusail to bear Mexico 2-0 behind a goal and an assist from Lionel Messi.

Saudi Arabia’s three points means it can still advance with a win over Mexico, who itself can add to its one point. So everyone’s alive in Group C.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Poland vs Argentina.


How to watch Poland vs Argentina live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Wednesday, Nov. 30
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The storyline for every Argentina game this tournament from this point forward — and really since the lead-up to the Mexico match — is that any loss means the end of Lionel Messi’s World Cup career (at least according to the living legend). The Albiceleste would be thrilled to get something more out of Lautaro Martinez, while Paulo Dybala’s yet to make his tournament debut.

Robert Lewandowski finally has a World Cup goal on his resume, while Piotr Zielinski has been very good for Poland. Former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sensational in the win over Saudi Arabia.


Poland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 26
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs, Path B
Coach: Czeslaw Michniewicz
Key players: Robert Lewandowski, Wojciech Szczesny, Piotr Zielinski

Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez

Portugal vs Uruguay: How to watch, live stream link, team news

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Portugal looks to seal its fate in the World Cup Round of 16 by piling pressure on Uruguay when two titans of the sport meet in Lusail on Monday.

Portugal outlasted Ghana 3-2 in Doha to open its tournament with a big win that featured a controversial penalty for Cristiano Ronaldo, while Uruguay staged a scoreless draw with South Korea.

STREAM LIVE PORTUGAL vs URUGUAY

It’s a group that never looked easy and is looking more and more like a “Group of Death” as the World Cup rolls through Qatar in its typically tense fashion this month and next.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Portugal vs Uruguay.


How to watch Portugal vs Uruguay live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Monday Nov. 28
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Everyone’s going to keep looking at Cristiano Ronaldo — it’s difficult not to turn your head with all the “Look at me” nonsense — but Bruno Fernandes is the real string-puller here. He’s playing well with Ruben Neves, while Ruben Dias and the back line will look to tighten things up after letting Ghana stay in the game.

Uruguay hero Luis Suarez has been here before, but his supporting cast is as good as ever. Rodrigo Betancur and Jose Maria Gimenez give La Celeste a chance at clean sheet every time they take the pitch.


Portugal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 9
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Fernando Santos
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Cancelo

Uruguay quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 14
World Cup titles: 2 (1930, 1950)
World Cup appearances: 14
How they qualified: Qualified from CONMEBOL
Coach: Diego Alonso
Key players: Luis Suarez, Federico Valverde, Darwin Nunez, Rodrigo Betancur

Brazil vs Switzerland: How to watch, live stream link, team news

Brazil vs Switzerland live
Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)
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Opening match winners Brazil and Switzerland meet Monday at Stadium 974 in Doha.

FIFA world No. 1 Brazil broke through pesky Serbia for a 2-0 win In Lusail to start the tournament as Richarlison scored two goals — one a ridiculous bit of technique — to get the Brazilians off on the right (and left) foot.

STREAM LIVE BRAZIL vs SWITZERLAND

Switzerland meanwhile used a 1-0 defeat of Cameroon to claim three points and set up Monday’s win-and-in match.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Can Neymar-less Brazil take the next step toward a sixth World Cup? Here is everything you need for Brazil vs Switzerland.


How to watch Brazil vs Switzerland live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 11am ET, Monday Nov. 28
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Brazil will not have Neymar for this one and likely the rest of the group stage as the oft-fouled magician felt the sting of Serbian tackles in the opener. The Brazilians have had to play without their captain before and have a wealth of attacking options, but who will join Richarlison in providing the goals in a Ney-less attack.

The Swiss have all the tools to hang with Brazil, but how physical will they want to make it for the favorites? Granit Xhaka will be one to watch as the underdogs try to balance a desire to get forward with the danger of doing so against a potent Brazil.


Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Switzerland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 15
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Murat Yakin
Key players: Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Yann Sommer, Remo Freuler