A former aspiring footballer from England who suffered from years of racial abuse has set his sights on becoming the first British Asian to manage in the Premier League.
Judan Ali is one of a number of individuals from Britain's Asian community, which makes up over five percent of the population, who have been fighting to make it in football.
But there is a lack of visibility of Asian presence in professional football in the UK. Only a handful are deemed to be good enough to make a living from playing football while the numbers in the coaching set-up, administration and senior management is small.
Ali though is hoping to change things by aiming to be the first British Asian to manage in the top league. His task seems to be difficult, especially as there are just two Black managers across 92 professional clubs in England despite 25 percent of players coming from a Black or Minority Ethnic background.
But the 38-year-old is determined to make it, showing the same drive which saw him try to pursue a career as a player. Growing up in a predominantly Asian area of east London, he spent two years at Arsenal Football Club as a YTS trainee but Ali found it difficult to progress any further.
Ali said: “I applied in writing by my real name to football clubs in the First Division back in the late 1980s and never got one response back to attend trials.”
Using an “English” alias, Ali succeeded in getting trials but once clubs found out his background, he was given rough treatment.
“I would be called Paki at every single club I went to by players and addressed as a Paki by some managers, especially when I got the rare chance to play in reserve matches. I spent two years of my life trying to make it as a professional footballer in the game and have been left with mental scars of the experiences of being a victim because of the colour of my skin. I was forced to give up the efforts as I was financially drained and without an education or qualifications I sought to make it abroad as a footballer and played in the Spanish lower league where I set up my life and never looked back.”
Ali's experience in the game was the subject of a Bollywood movie – Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal – which deals with the subject of racism and discrimination on and off the pitch.
But he has not been put off by his experience, instead hoping to channel it in the right way and prove his worth as a coach and manager. Ali showed his ability in the summer when he assembled a group of players from India won Arsenal FC's international soccer festival. Blackburn Rover’s Indian owners Venky’s have taken note of Ali and there were reports of Ali being in the running to become the coach of the Maldives national team.
“I sent a message to the football world by winning that tournament that they needed to take notice of Asian footballing talent, not just in India, but in this country. I’m now taking my badges, thanks to the help of the FA, and my goal is to become the first British Asian Premier League manager.”