Ozil aims to address lack of South Asians in football

Former Arsenal star Mesut Ozil hopes to boost the numbers of British South Asians breaking into professional football after helping launch a development centre in Bradford.

Fenerbahce midfielder, Mesut Ozil. - AP

Former Arsenal star Mesut Ozil hopes to boost the numbers of British South Asians breaking into professional football after helping launch a development centre in Bradford.

The United Kingdom has a South Asian population of more than three million people, which amounts to seven percent of the population. Yet only 11 British South Asians have played the professional game in England.

In a bid to redress that stark imbalance, Fenerbahce midfielder Ozil joined forces with the Football Association and the Football for Peace organisation.

Football for Peace, led by former British South Asian player Kashif Siddiqi and the FA, are co-launching the Mesut Ozil Development Centre in Bradford, which has a large South Asian community.

The centre will run football and life skill sessions at League Two side Bradford City's training ground.

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Several Premier League and Football League clubs have also signed up to the initiative and it is hoped the Bradford centre will be the first of many to open nationwide.

Ozil has Turkish roots but represented Germany, the country of his birth, before quitting the international stage in 2018 in protest at "racism and disrespect."

"I have always been surprised why the South Asian Community are only allowed to be fans of the game, why are we not seeing more players or managers breaking into professional football?" Ozil said.

"I want to support them, give them an opportunity to be successful both on and off the pitch.

"I am from an ethnically diverse background and understand the challenges. I hope the Football for Peace Mesut Ozil Centre will become the platform they need."

The centre will also provide workshops for parents to help build the relationship between South Asians and the wider football community.

Siddiqi, who co-founded Football for Peace said: "Football has given me so much and working with Mesut we want to create a platform that will provide a framework inside the football pyramid between professional clubs and also our community."

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