Today it was announced that Beyond Entertainment’s Faisal Malik has signed a contract with Cage Warriors. The 5-0 Mixed Martial Artist has made the biggest step in his career to date signing for a promotion that has seen global MMA stars such as Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Michael Bisping and even Conor McGregor. This is a massive step up in quality in Malik’s quest to find himself at the pinnacle of the sport as a UFC Champion.
Beyond Entertainment’s Kay Prospere will fight for the European
super-lightweight title live on DAZN on March 26.
The English champion, nicknamed Special K, will headline the Matchroom
Boxing event as he challenges Spaniard Sandor Martin in the champion’s
Martin, 28, is ranked 7 by both the WBC and WBO. He won the vacant EBU belt in convincing fashion against Andrea Scarpa in July 2019, and has a 37-2 record.
Prospere, 36, has been English champion since beating Sam O’maison in September 2019 following a controversial draw in their first bout six
months earlier. He then successfully defended it with a unanimous points decision against Bilal Rehman last March and is 14-1.
Prospere has given Martin his credit and said “he’s good, but he’s beatable” as his sets his aspirations to win the EBU title and move towards a world title opportunity.
The fight is an opportunity for both men to prove their credentials to
step up in class, and the winner will move a step closer to a world
Kay Prospere against Sandor Martin is live on DAZN from the Badalona’s
Palau Olímpic arena on March 26.
Saturday night saw Faisal Malik secure his fifth professional victory in as many fights with a 1st round stoppage victory over Andrei Bogus at UFL 4. Coming into the fight Faisal was yet to go longer than 1 minute and 4 seconds in the cage and his fifth bout was not dissimilar.
Within seconds of the start Malik countered a side kick with a near perfect entry on a single leg takedown, and instantly began to swarm Bogus with some lethal ground and pound. After some sustained punishment and some unanswered blows the bout was stopped in the very first round.
This victory moves Malik to 5-0 beckoning the question of if anybody in the national bracket can come close to him or if he is already ready for a step up in quality on his rise to the top.
Yan Dhanda proves his racist abusers wrong every time he steps onto a football pitch.
Dhanda is coming of age at Swansea City, thriving in a team chasing promotion to the Premier League.
With each accomplished performance, the 21-year-old sticks two fingers up at those who told him he would not make the professional game because of his British Asian background.
“When I was young I got a lot of racism, being Asian, probably because I was better than other kids,” Dhanda said.
“I got a lot of kids saying ‘you should be doing this job or should be doing that’, or ‘you’re not going to make it – you’re Asian’.
“There were obviously a lot worse words than that, but I am not going to say them.”
Dhanda, a former England Under-17 international who hails from the West Midlands, is one of only 10 British Asians among around 4,000 professional footballers in the United Kingdom.
He says the support of his mother Zoe, who is English, and father Jaz, who was born in England to Indian parents, was key in helping him deal with abuse he faced as a child.
“I think because I had so much self-belief and I knew I was better than everyone, I never let it affect me,” Dhanda said.
“But I can see it affecting other kids who don’t have the backing of their parents, or don’t have the self-belief I had or the relationship with their dad that I had.
“My dad would always say ‘you are better than them – don’t let it get to you and we’ll see where they are and where you are in the future’.”
Dhanda spent five years in Liverpool’s academy before moving to Swansea in search of first-team football in 2018.
He has had to be patient – he has made 30 appearances to date – but has turned a corner in recent weeks and now looks a player capable of nailing down a place in Swansea’s side.
Away from the training ground, Dhanda’s background comes up most days.
“On social media I get a lot of messages with people asking for advice,” he said.
“They want to become footballers, how do they do it, or they are proud of me and what I have done.
“Because I hear it so often, I am so aware of the lack of Asians in football. There’s no point sugar-coating it and saying it’s fine because it’s not.
“I am quite passionate about it, that things need to change and Asian kids need to get more opportunities and not get overlooked.”
Dhanda is delighted to be viewed as a role model.
“I am so proud of where I am from and my family’s background,” he added.
“I want to be the first person of Asian background to do great things.
“The lack of Asian players now – it can’t get any worse.
“But the number of Asian kids I know are playing football and are really good – they are going to be coming through in the next few years.”
Dhanda has long stood out as a gifted attacking midfielder, but has shown of late that he can cope with the physical demands of the Championship – and believes his progress could help others.
“I think a lot of Asian kids, because there are not a lot of professionals, are stereotyped as not strong enough,” Dhanda said.
“I think with the right coaching and with someone believing in them, anyone can do anything – no matter where you are from, what race you are and what background you are.
“Asian kids need the same opportunity as everyone else. They need to be given a chance.”
A long-standing problem “getting worse”
Research released today suggests there is plenty of work to be done before British Asians are properly represented in professional football.
A national poll of more than 2,000 people was commissioned by athlete management company Beyond Entertainment and the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), while there was also an FSA survey of 500 football fans.
Among the findings of the surveys are:
- Less than a third of people believed the football industry was doing enough to ensure better representation of British Asians in the professional game. 29.1% believed the industry was doing enough.
- 13% felt racism towards British Asians was treated seriously enough by the football industry.
- Among those within the survey group who identified as football fans, 46% said the game needed to do more to improve British Asian representation.
- 64% of the FSA survey group felt the small number of British Asians playing professionally “shamed” football.
- Of those within that group who identified as being British Asian – around one-fifth – 71% said the game is better structured to support the development of white and black players than people from their community.
- A similar number from that group (72%) also said the British Asian community needs to do more to get its youngsters involved in the game.
- 72% of the FSA survey group would be proud to see a British Asian captain England, but just 15% feel that will happen by 2050.
British Asians make up 7% of the UK population. However, only 0.25% of professional footballers are British Asians.
“There are twice as many people of Asian heritage as people of black heritage in the UK yet there are 100 times more black pro players than Asian pro players. That’s a massive statistical anomaly,” said Kick It Out executive chair Sanjay Bhandari.
“It is clear that football has a long-standing problem getting British Asian players into the game and it is getting worse. Football needs to address this.”
‘One of the lads said something about being a terrorist’
Maziar Kouhyar, 23, says he was called a “terrorist” by a team-mate during his time at Walsall.
Kouhyar came to Britain aged one as a result of conflict in his native Afghanistan, for whom he has played international football.
He made 33 Walsall appearances before being released in 2019, and says there were “a lot of good experiences” at the club.
“But also there were a lot of racist things I experienced that made it a bit sour,” he said.
The worst incident was during a warm-up before a training session.
“One of the lads said something to me, something about being a terrorist,” Kouhyar said.
“The guy said it again so we ended up having a confrontation, pushing each other. The lads split it up.”
Kouhyar expected to “get called into the office” to discuss what happened. When nothing was said, he stayed quiet because he “didn’t want to be a troublemaker”.
Kouhyar, a midfielder, now works as a car salesman. He says “racist banter” was “thrown about” during his time in the professional game.
“For example on one occasion we went to Luton. It was a predominantly Asian area we were driving past – some of the lads would say ‘Maz, there’s your cousin’,” Kouhyar said.
“In football, it’s sad to say but that’s just the banter. If you don’t play along with it, you are not going to get along with the lads.
“Now I work at Toyota, there’s no racist banter. Why is it okay as part of football culture? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
In a statement, Walsall said: “As a club we have always prided ourselves on being all inclusive.
“Should Maz have raised any of his concerns at the time with the hierarchy here at the club, they would have been taken very seriously and dealt with swiftly.
“We have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination of any kind and would not condone any such behaviour. Even though he has now left the club we would of course like to deal with his concerns if he is able to provide specific detail.
“He was a valuable member of the club from the age 15 where he progressed through the youth ranks to earn a professional contract before sadly rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in April 2019. Despite being out of contract in June, Maz completed his rehabilitation with the club before we parted ways in January 2020.
“Maz is one of a number of British Asian players who have followed a similar path with Walsall FC in recent years such as Netan Sansara, Malvind Benning and Jordon Sangha.”
Original article available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/54843694
Former pro Maziar Kouhyar and Beyond Entertainment’s Raz Hassan are keen to change the narrative and increase opportunities for overlooked players
When Maziar Kouhyar goes out playing football with friends in Birmingham, the comments to the 23-year-old car salesman are almost always the same.
“How are you not still playing professionally?”
That’s a bigger question than realised, but the story should perhaps start with something very different that was said to him when he was a League One player with Walsall. During one training session, Kouhyar was called a “terrorist” by a team-mate. He believes it was intended as “dressing-room banter”, but it just didn’t feel like that for Kouhyar. It was the “ultimate insult”.
“The reason we fled from Afghanistan when I was one year old was because of terrorism, and what was happening to people. So it goes deeper. It hits close to home.
“I endured years of low-level racism from team-mates, as well as that one particularly serious incident, but this kind of behaviour is so ingrained in football over so many years that people probably don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It was horrible to experience, but I didn’t want to complain in case I was branded a troublemaker – and I felt I had no choice but to just put up with it.”
These are some of the extra pressures that British Asian players have to face, as well as the conscious racism. New research also backs up the view they are victims of structural racism in this regard.
There’s first of all the stark fact that there are only 10 British Asians among the UK’s 4,000 professional footballers – just 0.25 percent of players, compared to 7 percent of the population.
A survey conducted by the Football Supporters’ Association and new athlete life management company, Beyond Entertainment has found that less than a third (29 per cent) of the UK population thinks football is doing enough to get British Asians into professional football, while 46 per cent of football fans thinks more needs to be done. Up to 42 per cent of fans, meanwhile, feel that racism towards British Asians in football is not treated seriously enough, and 86 per cent believes more role models would increase the number of footballers.
It makes former FA chairman Greg Clarke’s comment that “there’s a lot more South Asians” working in “the IT department” all the more pointed and indicative.
Beyond Entertainment’s Razi Hassan, who appears on a Zoom call with Kouhyar to discuss the study, feels British Asian footballers are the victims of stereotypes and unfair perceptions in the game.
“There’s a whole thing around whether they are mentally or physically strong enough,” Hassan explains. “There’s the instance of a top-six scout asking parents why he would bother with a British Asian academy player as ‘he’s going to go on and become an accountant or lawyer’. So it’s that kind of unconscious bias that still exists.”
Kouhyar feels his own career is almost a case study. The attacking midfielder suffered two serious injuries – one with his meniscus, another with his anterior cruciate ligament – and can understand why Walsall ultimately released him. He is grateful to the club for the opportunity, but what has increasingly grated is the lack of opportunity from the game thereafter.
“After I came back, I sent a lot of emails trying to get trials at clubs – to National League North, National League South – and none came back to me. In the end, I just decided to go for the Toyota job when it became available.”
No one was willing to give him that second chance, or even answer him, let alone have a look at him. It is why the experiences of many black coaches strike a chord. It is as if British Asian footballers are only allowed to fail once.
“That does feel right,” he says. “Once you fail once, no second chance. I feel it’s as though, if British Asians were seen better in football, there’d be more sympathy with my story, a bit more support. I could have got through that, because a lot of players get injured; it’s part of the game – they come back and play again.
“In terms of obstacles, I think it’s got a lot to do with the perception of British Asians, like growing up to be lawyers or doctors, or not really being into physical sport.”
Hassan points to other football cultures as examples of how this can quickly change.
“One of the things that strikes me, if you look at some of the countries across Europe that have had huge success – the French national team, the German national team – they are a real representation of the national fabric. The French national team is made up of north African players, central African players. The German national team has a lot of German Turkish players. We don’t have that here. We’re missing that piece, and we are arguably the most diverse of those nations. Yet, when it comes to the football field – whether that be the national team or national league – we’re not represented.
“It’s the piece that needs work here. It’s starting to make some headway, there’s concerted effort at the top level, at the strategic level, but it needs to filter down out of the clubs into the communities. That’s where we [Beyond Entertainment] feel we can help. It is why it must be a multi-agency approach. I think there’s a lot we can learn from those countries. We should look at them and see what they’re doing right.”
Kouhyar takes up the point. “In France, scouts know to look at Asian communities in the suburbs. They know they’re going to find talent there that can develop with proper coaching. There are a lot of Asian leagues in Birmingham. If you go to them, you will find talent.”
Hassan points to the example of 17-year-old Zidane Iqbal at Manchester United, and how British Asian talent can develop if given the right surroundings.
Kouhyar, meanwhile, feels this is why the Black Lives Matter movement could be so influential.
“It has opened the door for people to speak out. I personally would never have felt like doing something like this, speaking out, because I’d feel a troublemaker. But now is the time to speak out, when people are going to listen.”
Kouhyar admits that he hopes an interview like this will see a club take a chance on him, but also that it might start to help change the thinking.
It might change some of the commentary, and not just about Kouhyar when he plays with his friends.
Original article available here: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news/british-asian-footballers-supporters-association-b1721152.html
Fan survey reveals 42% think racism towards British Asians in football is not treated seriously enough; 86% believe more role models within the professional game would increase their
on the pitch; 72% would feel proud to see a British Asian captain England
“The stereotypes that Asian youngsters are only good at cricket, or only good at IT… that needs to be broken.”
These are the words of Bournemouth’s Dinesh Gillela, who has been dealing with racism in football ever since the age of 10.
A new survey by the Football Supporters’ Association and Beyond Entertainment claims professional players from the British Asian community are barely in double digits, out of a total of 4,000 players across clubs in England.
In the same week that the FA chairman Greg Clarke was forced to resign over ‘unacceptable remarks’ to a Parliamentary hearing that included stereotypes of Asian communities, executive chair of Kick It OutSanjay Bhandari says a commitment to tackling the lack of British Asian players is long overdue.
“This has been a big stubborn problem for 40 years, and really the dial has hardly moved at all,” he said. “I’d say there are the big structural problems in English football in terms of systemic biases: One is the boardrooms being predominantly white and male; one is the absence of black coaches; and the third one is the absence of Asian players.”
On November 29, 1978, Viv Anderson broke through another racial barrier by becoming the first black player to represent the England senior team, but 42 years later not one British Asian player has represented the Three Lions at senior level, while only a handful having played in the Premier League.
“Ultimately the numbers don’t lie do they? So when we have an Asian player lining up for England and a pipeline of players below that we know that they’re going to make it,” Bhandari added.
“You remember when Viv Anderson made it, it was Viv Anderson or Laurie Cunningham, but there was always Cyrille Regis and a load of other players in the background. We don’t have that. Hamza Choudhury might make it but if he does, where is the next one, is that another 40 years?”
It’s not only stereotypes that are holding back young players from South Asian communities, with many having encountered overt racism during their careers.
Twenty-year-old Bournemouth defender Dinesh Gillela says that the worst abuse he had to suffer actually came from parents of the other children playing on a Sunday afternoon.
“The abuse I usually suffered was from the sidelines believe it or not, and it’s certain parents calling me names. As a young kid it was hard to take and I would hear it and I would look at a father and I’m thinking ‘you’re saying that to me’ and bearing in mind I’m only 10/11 years old, and I’m thinking ‘Wow.'”
He also feels his family heritage made it more difficult for him to get signed by an academy, an experience he shared with fellow South Asian players.
“When I was younger there were scouts that came – but very, very rarely. I feel like when they came to watch me they wouldn’t pick me up straight away, they’d pick up a couple of my team-mates and I’d be standing there, I’d be left, I’ll carry on playing but it was never a case of they’d come and then they’d select me.
“I felt like even speaking to other team-mates, as in other Asian football players in the academies, they feel like they had to have two, three, four chances but other players have had just the one chance and they’ve gone straight into the academy.”
Since turning professional, Gillela recognises a different form of racism, with ill-informed attitudes still prevalent right at the top of the game.
“The stereotypes that Asian youngsters are only good at cricket, or are only good IT, or are only good at maths, I feel like it’s a stereotype that needs to be broken and I feel like as long as there is pressure in the media to cover these topics, I feel like that will make a huge difference,” he said.
“Obviously we heard the Greg Clarke comment the other day… That sort of stuff needs to be eradicated and it’s a big part of what other people’s perception is of South Asian players.”
There is hope for the future that attitudes are ready to change, and 72 per cent of fans that responded to the survey said they’d be proud to see a British Asian captain England.
While Dinesh knows he is only just starting out on his professional footballing journey, he is aiming for the very top, and he doesn’t see playing for his country as an impossible dream.
“I hope my career goes to that level where I can try and get an international call-up. It all starts from the ground level but also from higher up, and with the FA chairman, it starts there.
“That’ll make a massive difference and to see that the whole country is behind ethnic minorities coming through and playing for their country. As long as everyone is in the same boat I feel like it could be sooner rather than later.”
Linus Udofia defended his English middleweight title for the first time with a stoppage victory over John Harding jr in the 9th round. Both men were given an opportunity to showcase their talent on a wider platform on Saturday night on sky sports, and the early exchanges gave the impression we were in for a thrilling contest.
The early rounds saw Udofia as the busier man, however it seemed Harding jr was finding his range slightly better and the first round seemed an intriguing match up, Udofia ended the first with a flurry which saw Harding on the receiving end of some solid shots.
As the battle continued both men had their moments and Harding was making it very awkward for Udofia to show off some of his superior boxing finesse. Despite this awkward approach Udofia continued to land combinations and show moments of class. As it got into the later stages of the fight Udofia found his range better and improved some shot selection as he slowly but surely took control of the fight.
The fight progressed and it became visible that Harding was suffering from fatigue, and it just felt like his shot at the national title was slipping out of reach yet again. Udofia still growing into the fight and picking up momentum both on the scorecards and in the fight landed a solid right hand to drop Harding jr to the canvas.
Harding rose to his feet but the contest was waved off, seeing Udofia secure his 16th professional victory and complete his maiden defence of the English title in style.