Tackling Racism: Resilience key to becoming Premier League's first Asian footballer, says Jimmy Carter
The former Liverpool, Arsenal and Millwall player speaks exclusively as part of Sky Sports News' 'Tackling Racism' show focusing on British Asians.
By Blake Welton
Last Updated: 03/09/19 8:46am
Former Liverpool, Arsenal and Millwall footballer Jimmy Carter believes his single-minded determination and resilience was key to defying racism and becoming the Premier League's first Asian footballer.
The 53-year-old, who was signed by Kenny Dalglish for the Reds in 1991, says the same strong character and mindset is crucial in seeing more British Asians break into the game.
Despite there being 3,700 professional football players in the English game, just 11 are from a British Asian background, making up for only 0.3 per cent of the entire total.
"We talk about the figures but what ultimately brings players through is not ability but the all-round package," Carter told Sky Sports News as part of the 'Tackling Racism' show focusing on British Asians.
"It's the character and mindset of the individual that sees footballer make it.
"Dogged determination and resilience and the idea that nothing is going to phase you is definitely a strong part of it.
"It's when you face adversity and how you respond to it that matters and if you don't have that strength of character you're never going to come back.
"Racial abuse was never going to knock me off my focus to become the player I dreamt I would be.
"There was no Plan B for me, I had just one goal and, for me, I was destined to be a professional football player by hook or by crook, no-one was going to get in my way."
'I escaped a lot of racism'
Such was Carter's single-minded determination to reach the highest possible level, he never felt the necessity to reveal his mixed-race heritage, with his background only recently coming to light.
"I'm very proud of my heritage, I was brought up by my Dad as an Indian kid living on curry and rice every day," Carter said.
"It was never a conscious decision of holding back the information, I just wanted to get on with what I wanted to do and I just didn't think it was relevant.
"Of course, from an early age, I was aware of racism because of my skin colour.
"It pretty much shows I am not fully English but to a degree, because my surname was Carter and not Asian sounding, then the abuse and racism I encountered wasn't that bad.
"Had I been called 'Singh' or 'Patel' or something stereotypical then it definitely would have been ten times worse. So I suppose I 'got away with it' for large parts of my career."
'It's how you deal with it'
Despite this, Carter still recalls receiving racial abuse throughout his life - from the early days of playing district football in south London against "tough kids from the likes of Blackheath" to Tuesday night trips up north as a professional.
"When you're young it's not nice getting abuse but I always tried to be the bigger person," Carter said.
"And I remember going to some away grounds, particularly up north, this one guy, he's coming at me with so much hatred in his face
"He's hurling abuse at me, spitting and I was just thinking - what is this guy on?
"So I just smiled at him and it seemed to make him worse - I just thought he had so much hatred for me, he must have massive issues.
"But, at the end of the day, it's how you deal with it."
'My Dad would have been so hurt'
Throughout the interview, Carter speaks affectionately about his single-parent father and how his background in the Indian navy meant a strict, military upbringing that ultimately helped him to achieve his goal of becoming a footballer.
Despite admitting his father's insistence on early-morning runs in the freezing cold to give Carter "one up" on his district football team-mates, Carter says deep down his Dad was a "soft, placid man".
And it was for this very reason, Carter admits he never told his father about any of the abuse he faced.
"I never went home and told my Dad I got racial abuse because I know how much that would have hurt him - he would have felt so bad for me and felt responsible," he said.
"He would have thought that because of the colour of his skin, I was getting stick and abuse and I just didn't want that for him."
Watch the 'Tackling Racism' series on Sky Sports News and Sky Sports Main Event at 9pm on Mondays.