The former German football star Mesut Özil has joined two other football organisations to launch a development centre in Bradford which will aim to boost the number of British South Asians professional footballers.

The United Kingdom has more than a three million South Asian population, which amounts to 7% of the population. While Britain’s Afro-Caribbean population is well-represented in elite sport, especially football, the number of British Asians is very low. For instance, there are only 15 footballers from a South Asian background among the 4,000 professional players.

Fenerbahce midfielder Özil joined in the struggle with the Football Association and the Football for Peace organisations in order to redress the stark imbalance of figures. 

Football for Peace— an organisation led by former British South Asian player Kashif Siddiqi— and the FA are coordinating to launch the Mesut Özil Development Centre in Bradford, a place that has a large South Asian community.

The centre will train footballers and will give life skill sessions at League Two side Bradford City’s training ground.

Several Premier League and Football League clubs have appreciated and also signed up for the initiative and it is expected that the Bradford centre will be the first of many to open nationwide giving opportunities to the underprivileged South Asian footballers.

The Turkish Mesut Özil is a World Cup winner with Germany in 2014 who plays for Fenerbahce in Istanbul nowadays.

“I understand the challenges”

Özil 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?”

He added, “I want to support them, give them an opportunity to be successful both on and off the pitch. I 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.”

Earlier Özil took retirement from International football citing racial abuse, In an interview after the retirement, he said, “I was receiving racist abuse – even from politicians and public figures – yet nobody from the national team came out at that time and said, ‘Hey, stop. This is our player, you can’t insult him like that’. Everyone just kept quiet and let it happen.” 

Özil quoted references as he left the field of play such as, “Go back to your country”, “F— yourself” and “Turkish pig”. It was the same treatment teammate Ilkay Gündogan, who was also featured in the infamous photo with Erdogan, received in a pre-tournament friendly in Leverkusen.

The story was filed by the News Desk.
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