Sporting Khalsa are set to become the first club borne out of the South Asian community to play in the eighth tier of the modern-day pyramid after a non-League restructure from next season was approved by the FA Council.
The National League System restructure will see 110 clubs between Steps 5 and 7 (five and seven divisions below League Two) promoted based on an unweighted points-per-game system over the last two seasons – with a new division administered by the Northern Premier League created at Step 4, English football’s eighth tier.
Midland Football League Premier Division side Sporting Khalsa are one of a clutch of clubs currently playing at Step 5 that were started by groups of aspiring South Asian footballers. Other notable examples include Leicester Nirvana, Kent side Punjab United, and east London’s Sporting Bengal United, who featured in the Sky Documentaries original, Micah Richards: Tackling Racism.
Sporting Khalsa play at the Guardian Warehousing Arena, across the road from Willenhall Memorial Park where the club’s Sikh-Punjabi founders used to get together for a weekend kickabout before their official formation and entry to the local Walsall and District Sunday League in 1991.
They now run sides from U5s to U21s for players from all backgrounds, in addition to men’s and women’s first teams.
Top-ranked clubs from each of the North West Counties League, Northern Counties East League and Northern League “will be considered eligible for upward movement to Step 4” and will be invited to make an application to join the new division, along with highest-ranked clubs from the other divisions at Step 5.
Sporting Khalsa have the highest points-per-game total in the Midland Football League Premier Division for the relevant period (2.19), ahead of Coventry United (1.95) and Romulus (1.9).
Sky Sports News has been told that the club are expecting to be invited to apply for a place in the proposed new division at Step 4 and are confident of meeting any additional league requirements. The source added it would be “fitting” for Sporting Khalsa to go up in their 30th anniversary year.
Southgate meets Apna England
Meanwhile, members of fans group Apna England were left stunned last week when they were joined on a Zoom call by none other than Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate.
Apna England, formed in 2019, have a core membership drawn from affiliated South Asian-led groups supported by the Fans for Diversity campaign, a jointly-funded initiative led by the Football Supporters’ Association and Kick It Out that promotes diversity and inclusion in football.
Southgate’s surprise appearance was the brainchild of Fans for Diversity campaign chief and former footballer Anwar Uddin. Apna England members shared stories of their experiences in and around the game with the England manager, who listened intently and spoke of his desire to see greater representation of South Asians in football.
Apna England member Micky Singh has been involved in football in the Midlands at various levels for almost 50 years, and was the first ethnically diverse fan to become a fully-fledged member of the Birmingham City Official Supporters’ Club back in the 1970s.
He told Sky Sports News: “We were all enormously proud to have Gareth Southgate on the call with the Apna England supporters’ group. It was incredibly good of him to listen to our varied experiences of following England and providing his honest insight.
“Our communities can be encouraged by this type of fan engagement and the steps being taken by the FA to understand the challenges real football fans from minority ethnic communities can face when supporting our national team.
“In light of everything else that has gone on recently, we are glad the FA recognises that football fans like us need to be part of the solution. The fabulous game of football – which we all love – belongs to everybody!”
Hamza Choudhury comic book released
Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury has teamed up with EA Sports to release a comic book aiming to inspire the next generation of British South Asian players.
Choudhury’s father hails from Grenada in the Caribbean, while his mother comes from Bangladesh, and the Loughborough-born midfielder is one of the country’s highest-profile South Asian footballers.
Titled Hamza: My Story, the book – written by respected Independent journalist Vithushan Ehantharajah and illustrated by Raj Dhunna – tells the story of Choudhury’s identity, heritage and upbringing, touching upon the challenges he faced coming up through the game.
Writing in the foreword section, Choudhury said: “Being yourself is important in life and football. It was a lesson taught to me growing up: to love who you are and what you do.
“Without embracing my heritage, my skin and even my hair, I would not be the person or the footballer I am today. This is my story so far.”
The book will be distributed in schools working with the Show Racism the Red Card charity and also through the Premier League Primary Stars portal.
Show Racism the Red Card’s Raj Murria told Sky Sports News: “We can’t wait to get this comic book out there and into the hands of the children we work with to help empower them to embracing their culture and take pride in their heritage
“It sends the message that we [all] belong here and we all belong in the Beautiful Game. It may even be an introduction to learn of these cultures for some, it’s certainly something I could have done with when I was younger and we hope it inspires the next generation.”
The charity’s chief executive Ged Grebby added: “Show Racism the Red Card would like to thank Hamza Choudhury, EA Sports and Leicester City Football Club for this brilliant campaign to encourage more British Asian representation in the English game.
“The comic book is a welcome addition to anti-racist educational resources and we look forward to the opportunity of hopefully working with Hamza as part of our extensive schools programme.”
British South Asians in Football
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