As YouTube attains a certain level of commercial maturity, we at Mediolana continue to be impressed by the output from the team at COPA90, one of the very few independent channels to successfully bridge the gap between basement video creation and recycled ‘legacy’ media clips. One of their most recent (and perhaps controversial) offerings is well worth under fifteen minutes of any football fan’s time.
In Why Do British Asians Never Make It Pro?, host Adam McKola poses one of the more discomfiting socio-cultural questions of our time: how it is possible that in 2019, there are not enough professional footballers of British Asian ethnic origin in the first four levels of the English soccer pyramid to even come close to filling a single match day squad?
A particular strength of this piece is that it correctly underlines the inadequacies of conventional theories – parental preferences, cultural proclivities, middle-class economic aspirations – which seek to explain this stark lacuna. Ultimately, there is no shortage of football-mad, working-class people of Asian heritage in the United Kingdom; ceteris paribus, it defies all rational expectations that there has not been a single ‘breakout’ player emerge from a broadly-defined community numbered in its millions.
However, at the end of McKola’s mini-documentary, our Creative Director & CSO was left slightly unfulfilled when it came to both the historical treatment of this issue and prescriptions for a remedy.
The question of why British Asians have enjoyed only the most marginal of successes in the country which codified the modern form of the beautiful game was being asked by anti-racism campaigners at least as far back as twenty years ago, when it became clear that the coming of age of second-generation UK Asians was not being accompanied by their acceptance into what is arguably the nation’s single most important cultural experience; the fact that only the slightest of progress has been registered in all this time evinces just how stubbornly positive change is being resisted.
As uncomfortable as it is to articulate, the only plausible explanation for this dynamic is the existence of a form of structural discrimination which is so profound that it shapes interactions on a much more powerful level than most of us would like to admit. The legacy of colonialism – which involved the heisting of at least US$45tn from the Indian subcontinent, surely one of the greatest acts of de-development in history, recorded or otherwise – means that in England, pseudo-nationalist demagogues and well-meaning liberals alike are curiously united in regarding British Asians, in this particular context and perhaps others, as essentially invisible; additionally, a media which simultaneously portrays South Asian males as night-time economy predators and sexual sub-incels is doing nothing to promote an objective perception of their attributes, sporting or otherwise.
Once this truth has been accepted and internalised, the path forward for the British Asian soccer stars of the future is clear: they must seek their fortunes in systems which have actually demonstrated that they do value players of South Asian descent equally. Holland, Norway and France have all recognised footballers of subcontinental origin with caps at full international level; this fact alone should be enough to end the collective British Asian fixation on a Premier League which evidently has little place for their type.