Danny Batth blanked out racism to make it in football

Batth on racism growing up: "Indirectly, I did hear people saying stuff but then you have a choice, do you get in a fight every weekend? Or do you try and rise above it and focus on your career? Nine times out of 10, I chose that route and it's served me well"

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Stoke centre-back and British Asian footballer Danny Batth says he had to ignore casual racism as a teenager in order to succeed in the game

Danny Batth says he had to rise above racism in order to have a chance of forging a career in the game.

Stoke City defender Batth, whose father hails from the Indian state of Punjab, is likely to make his 300th appearance in league football later this month, and scored his first goal for current club Stoke in last week's Carabao Cup win over Leeds.

Danny Batth of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates promotion to the Premier League after the Sky Bet Championship match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City
Image: Batth is the first British Asian to captain a side to promotion to the Premier League

His potential was evident from an early age and he joined Wolves aged 10, but had he not turned a blind eye to casual racism in his teenage years, Batth may not have been able to carve out a career in the game.

"When I was about 15 or 16 [I encountered racism]," the Stoke centre-back told Sky Sports News.

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"It might not have been directed to me - probably because I was bigger than everyone else - but indirectly I did hear people saying stuff.

"But then you have a choice, do you get in a fight every weekend? Or do you try and rise above it and focus on your career? Nine times out of 10 I chose that route and it's served me well really."

What is holding Asian players back?

Batth and Swansea's Yan Dhanda are the only two British Asian players in the Sky Bet Championship.

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Yan Dhanda of Swansea City in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Swansea City and Birmingham City at the Liberty Stadium on August 25, 2019 0:28
Swansea attacking midfielder Yan Dhanda says he is proud to be part of the British-Asian footballing community and hopes he can inspire more players to come through

The Stoke centre-back believes there is a myriad of different reasons why more Asian footballers are not reaching the highest level but says self-belief has been one of the secrets of his success.

"It's such a diverse game. People feel British Asians are under-represented in terms of playing and it's an area where people wonder why. I think about it sometimes and I think it's a combination of things," he said.

"It's a good environment, and for parents, a safe environment for their kids.

Tackling Racism - British Asians 3:09
We take a look at some of the initiatives that are in place to encourage more British Asians to play football

"It's about if a kid is good enough and if they're getting the right coaching. Are the coaches giving them what they need?

"What about when they hit 15 or 16 and they learn about alcohol and nights out? How does that affect the kid? That can have an impact on stopping players reaching the professional level.

"It's also to do with scouts and what they are looking for. There are so many factors that could be hindering them but for me, I believed if I was good enough and I trained hard enough then I would get a chance and that served me in good stead.

'I've never felt isolated'

British-Asian footballers remain few and far between, with PFA records indicating there were just 12 senior professionals from the community among a playing population of around 3700.

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Former Newcastle and Sunderland striker Michael Chopra says there's a need for more Asian footballers at all levels of the English game

Some find it difficult to adjust to being the only Asian player in the dressing room but Batth says he has never experienced the loneliness that many others encounter.

"I don't feel any different to any other player. I'm very much one of the lads and I get along well with everyone," he said.

"Ultimately, there are not too many players from an Asian background playing in England so that makes me a bit of an individual in that regard [I suppose].

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"But there are so many people of different backgrounds and nationalities playing these days, so I've never really felt isolated or alone - rather, I have just always pretty much enjoyed the team spirit of football and the dressing room and all of that."

Sky Sports News has run an unprecedented week-long campaign across all of our platforms shining a light on British-Asians in the game.

The culmination of our week of coverage sees Dharmesh Sheth host a Tackling Racism: British Asians special, featuring guests including boss of Charlton Athletic Women Riteesh Mishra and the Premier League's secret Asian, Jimmy Carter.

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Neil Taylor says it is difficult to answer why British Asian players are few and far between but says he is hopeful that in the next generation many more will make the breakthrough

Batth hailed the week of action, praising the Sky Sports News initiative for helping to play a part in inspiring the next generation of British Asian footballers.

"A little bit of time for this particular subject is great I think. It gets people talking and potentially something that does not get talked about enough," he said.

"And players like myself and players - who have come through and done it - like to talk about their experiences and sharing them in the hope that maybe there is a young kid sat on the sofa watching the interview who takes a bit of spirit from it."

The latest instalment of our 'Tackling Racism' series on Sky Sports News can be seen on Monday, September 2, hosted by Dharmesh Sheth and focusing on British Asians in football.

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