Scepticism has greeted the Football Association’s latest initiative aimed at combating the chronic under-representation of British Asians in top-level English football.
While tens of thousands regularly play the game, British-born men of Asian descent who make it as professionals are extremely rare – especially at Premier League clubs.
The popularity of football has increased steadily among the Asian community over the last 20 years, so much so it is now ahead of cricket.
This has led authorities to question why the abundance of talent and enthusiasm has not led to greater progression into the professional leagues.
The FA will host forums across the country in an effort to get people talking and look at ways talent can be spotted and brought on.
Some have voiced fears the problem may be partly down to discrimination within the game, which was beset by problems with racism in the past and has an ongoing high-profile campaign against it.
Others point to cultural obstacles, saying youngsters and their parents are put off by the game’s drinking culture and the general disregard for academic achievement.
British-Pakistani Irfan Mohammed, who has played football in the lower leagues in the West Midlands for 15 years, told Sky News he never sensed any discrimination towards him.
“I’ve always felt I’ve been judged on my ability as a footballer,” the 30-year-old said.
“A big factor is that Asians often only play for Asian-only teams. In the years I’ve been playing, I’ve rarely seen Asian players in teams that aren’t all-Asian.
“The problem at all-Asian teams is the standard of coaching isn’t always as high as you’ll see at more well-established clubs.”
Many British Asians within the game agree more needs to be done to mix with the wider footballing community.
Manisha Tailor, FA coach and club scout, said: “Often Asians who stick within their community play in predominately Asian-only groups and don’t integrate.
“I think there’s a system in place for players to develop and progress and make it as a pro in the elite game.
“Hopefully those that are good enough can make it and sign a pro contract.”
Neil Taylor is currently the only British player of Asian descent playing in the Premier League, while Adil and Samir Nabi at West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa’s Easah Suliman and Liverpool’s Yan Dhanda are among a host of prospects hoping to make it in the top tier.
Michael Chopra is recognised as the first British Asian to play in the division.
The former Newcastle United striker said Asian parents should do more to help their children progress in football.
“I’ve always had the support of my mum and dad, which was the main factor in why I’ve got where I am,” he said.
“They took me to football on a freezing cold Sunday morning, just watching me and supporting me.
“Come seven or eight o’clock at night, most Asian parents would rather their child was doing their homework, whereas my parents would say: ‘There’s a football match on TV. Do you want to watch it?’.”
The FA’s report into Asians in football was due to be published in 2013 but will not be ready until next year, which critics say shows the association is not taking the issue seriously enough.
Campaigner Steven Sidhu said: “The FA has done this before with the Asian community, pumping money, hosting forums, stealing our ideas. We don’t want that.
“All we want is the FA to educate the clubs, the directors, the coaches and managers.”
But Mark Ives, FA disciplinary manager, said patience was needed to tackle a complex problem.
“There is a great deal more to be done and if I had gone back five years, you wouldn’t have had the FA coming in front of groups and forums,” he said.
“It is not something that we can suddenly switch the light on and it’s changed. This is not a quick win situation.”