Birmingham City name 16-year-old Layla Banaras in their squad for trip to Barclays Women’s Championship leaders Bristol City; Banaras, who helped launch Birmingham’s new strip this season, is part of the best-ever crop of South Asian heritage talent in English women's football
Sunday 20 November 2022 14:03, UK
Birmingham City Women's starlet Layla Banaras has been named in the squad for the trip to play league leaders Bristol City, aged just 16.
Banaras scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win for the Development Squad against Liverpool at the end of last month and has been training regularly with the first-team squad this season.
She was handed the number 42 shirt for the match at Bristol City, played at the club's main Ashton Gate stadium.
Tough-tackling Banaras, whose mother is English and whose father is Pakistani, is a former Oasis Academy Hobmoor pupil - and started out playing football at Solihull Moors FC before joining Birmingham City at the age of eight.
Banaras, who can play across defence and midfield, captained Birmingham's U16 academy team last season before stepping up to represent the club's development side on a number of occasions.
The versatile wing-back played the full 90 minutes as the youngest player on the pitch - aged just 16 years and 25 days - in last season's FA WSL U21 Academy Cup final against Manchester United at St George's Park, increasing the clamour for her to earn an England youth call-up.
Banaras was described as an outstanding youngster by former Blues manager Carla Ward, and earned plaudits last year after producing a nutrition guide and meal planner to better prepare Muslim athletes for fasting during Ramadan.
The teenager, who has previously said she hopes to inspire other young Muslim girls to take up football, began developing a healthy eating programme for players when they are fasting after finding very little guidance for players training through Holy Month of Ramadan.
Banaras was cheered on by friends and family and team-mates past and present when she participated in the Queen's Baton Relay earlier this year prior to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
The 16-year-old also featured in Birmingham City's kit launch ahead of the season, appearing alongside men's first-team academy graduate Brandon Khela as Blues embraced their rich cultural diversity to promote their new strip.
Sikh-Punjabi midfielder Khela penned senior terms at St Andrew's earlier this summer, becoming the first British South Asian to sign a professional deal with Birmingham City.
Official Birmingham City supporters' group Blues 4 All have since taken the rare step of sponsoring Khela after being inspired by fellow supporters' club the Punjabi Rams - who Sky Sports News revealed were extending their sponsorship of Derby County Women's winger Kira Rai for a fifth season.
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News last month, Blues 4 All chair Micky Singh said: "I've supported Blues for over 60 years and have waited a very long time to see a Punjabi kid come up through the ranks here at Birmingham City Football Club.
"Brandon is a player with lots of potential and is just one of a few youngsters from South Asian backgrounds trying to break through.
"That's a huge credit to Blues, who are supporting talent despite the painfully slow response from football to tackle South Asian under-representation in the men's and women's professional game."
For more stories, features and videos, visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Football page on skysports.com and South Asians in the Game blog and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital.