An Exclusive interview with Michael CHOPRA
Former Newcastle and Sunderland striker spoke to RajNews on Asians and Racism in the game, where we asked him about his take on Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Shola Ameobi and Ian Wright, who have all been subjected to racist abuse.
Is football a racist institution?
When Greg Clarke FA Chairman made some shocking comments recently in November 2020 many people were left disappointed as the Chairman referred to Black and Asian and ethnic minorities as one group of “Coloured players”.
Greg Clarke later apologised; although he also made shocking comments about Asian players too; when asked about Diversity in Football he said “Asians have different career interests” and gave an example saying that the FA’s IT Department had more Asians whereas on the pitch there were only a handful.
In the Interview with Michael Chopra I asked him about struggles for Asians and Black players and racism in Football:
Upon asking Michael if he ever received abuse himself he says it was “fortunate that I never received any abuse myself (as no one thought I was of Indian origin) but I remember my team mate Shola Ameobi at 14 years of age getting racially abused on the pitch and retaliated by pushing the other player.”
However Michael said “It’s good that players like Rashford and Sterling are not retaliating or reacting to the abuse, which is trying to provoke them, into a reaction. It should be reported to the Police and the Law should deal with it.”
“It seems the more people talk about racism, the more players get abused. I remember standing up to racism with campaigning when I was a footballer we spoke to communities and schools to educate people.”
Michael Chopra one of the first Asian players in the game said in the interview with Raj Mehta on the current abuse that players are receiving, that “social media need to clamp down and take the onus to authenticate these fake accounts.”
“Racism is getting worse in Football and there have to be BIG Changes” he said, we all have to help each other by stopping this abuse and behaviour from certain uneducated individuals.”
Michael went on to say “Racism needs to be talked about as an issue in the game before it gets further worse, and increases.”
“Gradually Asian players are coming through but very slowly and there are still not enough. The FA and Premiership could do a lot more to have a pro Asian/Black policy as they’ve said they will and a good idea would be to have a dedicated amount of Asian and Black players in each age group through to senior football.”
“The main focus on taking the knee to stand against racism has lost its value now and they need to come up with different and new things, always, to keep combatting Racism.”
When asked about South Asians in Football, Chopra said “There are not enough Asian players! The FA and Football authorities need to look into new ways to integrate Asian players and a long term plan needs to be put into place for Asians to come into the game and bring them through academies; maybe academies and clubs need to look at having a policy to bring through and develop players. I would love to see more Asian players coming through.”
He said of the situation on Asian and Black Players that “it is changing, but not enough.” and said the “World is changing and football needs to reflect and adapt with these changes.”
Michael Chopra recalls when he was on campaigns like “Show racism the red card, Stamp it out, Say no to Racism and Kick it out” ten years before and said Football and Players need to “Carry on to bring about A Real Change, and “taking a knee is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done. As in the last year things have got worse with Racial abuse towards players.”
Ian Wright received racist abuse recently and Michael Chopra said that “We can’t put a stop to online abuse and it was an unfortunate situation for Ian Wright”, and said “the big media and online platforms need to take a tough stance, and should be held accountable for abuse.”
Michael was keen to emphasise that “Things are tough now and as a result we need to educate kids from Now to end Racism. It’s about educating our kids not to be racist. Football authorities need to take action on things like overseas racism and ban teams from competitions as fines don’t work.” (Talking about overseas football violence and racism.)
Michael Chopra concluded the interview saying “I hope to inspire others and would love to see more Asian players and I would love to see racism kicked out of the game as it can effect people mentally and traumatise them, especially if they are young, but well done to players like Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, who should never be subjected to abuse from these trolls on social media.”
Black and Asian players are the way forward but Racism institutionally and abuse from so called fans is the biggest obstacle they face.
The British South Asian players in the game are currently only a handful, these include names like :
Neil Taylor currently playing for Aston Villa as a left back and his Mum is Bengali from Kolkata, India, whilst his Dad is British. He has also played for Wales too.
Hamza Choudhury currently plays for Leicester City FC as a midfielder and is British born with Bangladeshi- Grenadian origins.
Yan Dhanda currently plays for Swansea City as an attacking midfielder. He is British born whereas his Dad is from India, Punjab.
Michael Chopra also said “Asians are still stereotyped as being too skinny, weak, small, and as lacking fitness, and also face struggles against racism not much has changed in the past ten years since I was playing.”
Mohamed Salah, one the best Premiership players, has also been abused racially; And who can forget the incident between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand when Terry lost his England captaincy due to a racist slur against Anton Ferdinand who was left traumatised by the alleged incident.
The British Asian players who were on the football scene before Dhanda and Choudhury are only a few and many decided to play football outside England due to abuse and anti-sentiment towards Asians.
Michael Chopra is one of those before Dhanda and Choudhury and has inspired many Asians all over the World.
British Football is still missing more players like Chopra who have been an inspiration for many. One of the few Asians to play in senior football for a Premiership team and he played alongside England footballing legend Alan Shearer. Only later in his career Chopra decided to play football in India. Michael Chopra is known for coming on as a substitute and scoring in 13 seconds for Newcastle United.
Other Asian players have also featured previously in British football but not with as much impact as Michael Chopra, through no fault of their own, it is just that football needs to be more incorporative of Asians in the game and hasn’t been in the past.
That’s why Michael Chopra is seen as such a huge idol to look up to one of the first Asians in the Premiership Football limelight! Michael says “I will be following Newcastle my team this season and would love to see more Asians in football, and it would be fantastic to see more Asians such as in Cricket where there are visibly more Asians playing.”
Other Asian players previously in English football are names such as :
Jimmy Carter is now known for being the first Asian player in the Premiership although he did not disclose his Indian background till after his career.
Jimmy gets his English last name from his mum. He played for teams such as Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Milwall and Arsenal.
Roger Verdi whose real name is Rajinder Singh Virdee, played for Wolverhampton Wanderers at youth level and went abroad to play for the North American Soccer League with over 100 appearances in the North American football league.
Adil Nabi who played for West Bromwich Albion 2013-16 is British born and currently plays football for Greek club OFI.
Kashif Siddiqi (British born Pakistani) who started his youth career at Arsenal and started his own foundation to encourage young British Asians into the game. He played for Pakistan U23 too.
Anwar Uddin (British born Bangladeshi) who played at West Ham FC in 2001-2002. And was the first British Asian to Captain a club in the top four divisions of English football. He is now assistant manager at Aldershot Town a national league side.
Zesh Rehman (British born Pakistani) who played for Fulham and is now a captain and manager of Hong Kong team Southern.
Adnan Ahmed (British born Pakistani) who played in youth academy for Manchester United and for Huddersfield Town later.
Football needs to change with the World for the better not the worse; And there needs to be equal opportunities for Black and Asian players and also those with different gender preference in sexuality. The Racism and abuse needs to stop NOW!
This article is correct as of 8/02/2021
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