Former Arsenal star Mesut Ozil has expressed hope that the number of British South Asians entering professional football will increase after he helps start a development center in Bradford.
The UK’s South Asian population is over 300,000, or 7% of the population.
So far only 11 British South Asians have played professional sports in England.
In an effort to address this imbalance, Fenerbahce midfielder Ozil joined forces with the Football Association and the Football for Peace organization.
Football for Peace, led by former British South Asian player Kashif Siddiqui and the FA, is co-launching the Mesut Ozil Development Center in Bradford, which has a large South Asian community.
The center will run football and life skills sessions at the League Two Side Bradford City training ground.
Several Premier League and Football League clubs have also signed the initiative, and it is hoped that the Bradford Center will be the first to open in the country.
Ozil has Turkish roots but represents Germany, the country of his birth, before leaving the international stage in 2018 against “racism and disrespect”.
“I always wonder why the South Asian community is only allowed to be fans of the game, why don’t we see more players or managers entering professional football?” Ozil said.
“I want to support them, give them a chance to succeed both on and off the field.
“I come from an ethnically diverse background and understand the challenges. I hope the Football for Peace Mesut Ozil Center becomes the platform they need.”
The center will also provide workshops for parents to strengthen ties between South Asians and the wider football community.
Siddiqui, who co-founded Football for Peace, said: “Football has given me a lot and by working with Mesut we want to create a platform that connects professional clubs and our community. Provide a framework inside the football pyramid. “