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Birmingham City’s Layla Banaras, 16, becomes first South Asian heritage woman to represent Blues in professional era

Birmingham City 16-year-old Layla Banaras becomes the first South Asian heritage woman to represent Blues in the professional era after featuring in Women's FA Cup third-round win over Huddersfield; Banaras, whose mother is English and father is Pakistani, joined Blues as an eight-year-old

Birmingham City footballer Layla Banaras
Image: Layla Banaras has made history with Birmingham City

Birmingham City’s Layla Banaras, 16, has become the first South Asian heritage woman to represent Blues in the professional era after featuring in Sunday's Women's FA Cup tie against Huddersfield.

The-16-year-old was named on Birmingham's bench for the first time in her career in last November's impressive Barclays Women's Championship win against Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

Banaras, who has been with Birmingham since the age of eight, came on as a substitute in the 4-0 victory at St Andrew's as Blues cruised into the fourth round of the Women's FA Cup.

Birmingham manager Darren Carter was thrilled to give youth a chance and said Banaras was fully deserving of her first-team opportunity.

"I said before she went on that she has earnt the chance," Carter said.

"Ever since she stepped up and trained with us day-in and day-out, you've seen that she has got stronger and more confident, and she deserved that today.

"To see the academy flourishing in the first team again [is great]. With herself, Delphi (Cole) coming on, and Abbie Cowie, and obviously, Gemma (Lawley) and Lily (Simkin) coming on, and AJ (Abbie Jenner) waiting in the wings - it's nice we can showcase the youth and talent that we have got.

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"But in Layla's case she's been fantastic. Her attitude has been brilliant and she totally deserved to get on the pitch today."

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.

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 the Holy Month of Ramadan.

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Sky Sports News helped Birmingham City trailblazer Layla Banaras launch her dedicated nutrition plan and meal planner for 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.

Bik (L) and Micky Singh Blues 4 All (credit: Roy Smiljanic)
Image: Blues 4 All chair Micky Singh (right) and son Bik (credit: Roy Smiljanic)

Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News in October, 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."

British South Asians in Football

For more stories, features and videos, visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Football page on and South Asians in the Game blog and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital.

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