Obstacle race? 'race', racism and the recruitment of British Asian professional footballers

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Burdsey examines the ways in which British Asian footballers perceive 'race' and racism as factors influencing their under-representation in the professional game. He argues that issues of 'race' and racism in football often manifest themselves in forms that are far more complex, nuanced and subtle than are recognized within dominant discourses. Using their oral testimonies, Burdsey demonstrates that the attitudes and opinions of British Asian footballers often contradict the viewpoints proposed by anti-racist football organizations and the media. In particular, for a variety of reasons, the British Asian players in this research, many of whom have first-hand experience of playing at professional clubs, do not attribute the under-representation of British Asian professional footballers to racism in the professional game. These players believe that it is necessary to examine how issues of ethnicity, 'race' and racism manifest themselves at the amateur levels of the game, and how this situation inhibits the progression of British Asians into professional football. At amateur levels, racism from opponents, together with the role of football clubs as symbols of ethnic identity, means that British Asian players often play in all-Asian teams and in all-Asian leagues. This restricts their opportunities for being identified and recruited by professional clubs. Finally, Burdsey analyses the use of British Asian coaches as cultural intermediaries in facilitating the inclusion of British Asians in professional football. He argues that not only can this approach be disadvantageous, but also that it is hypocritical, and thus causes offence to many British Asian players.

Keywords: British Asians; anti-racism; ethnicity; football; inclusion; social segregation; sport

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0031322042000250466

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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