British-Asian filmmaker Pardeep Chera explains why he gave up on football
Chera: "The coach even admitted I was a good player and then he says 'he's good but we can't use that here'. I still don't know [what he meant]. I wish I knew."
By Dev Trehan and Dharmesh Sheth
Last Updated: 31/08/19 6:20pm
British-Asian filmmaker Pardeep Chera says his movie Singh Number 7 was inspired by doubts about whether he was given a fair chance to carve out a career in professional football.
Leicester-based Chera was an aspiring footballer in his youth but still vividly recalls the moment he decided there was no future for him in the beautiful game.
"It all started when I was in school," Chera told Sky Sports News. "I was always interested in football and always interested in acting.
"When I was a teenager, I actually tried to make it in football and tried out for a number of teams and was unsuccessful.
"The moment I knew it wasn't going to happen was when I was at a trial and finally everything was looking good. I'd played well, I'd impressed everyone.
"People were talking about me in a good way and the coach even admitted I was a good player and then he says 'he's good but we can't use that here'.
"I don't know [what he meant]. I still don't know what that means, I wish I knew.
"It's a possibility [he was referring to the colour of my skin] but I'm not going to say that's what it was. It could've been anything, my physicality - I'm not the biggest guy - anything at all, but that is one of the possibilities."
Aston Villa full-back Neil Taylor and Leicester City midfielder Hamza Choudhury are currently the Premier League's only Asian players, and Chera believes more footballers from the community are not coming through due to preconceptions and prejudice.
"There are a lot of stereotypes out there about Asians," he said.
"There is the physicality, there is the whole 'they prefer cricket thing'. The list is endless but another reason is institutionalised racism.
"The amount of stories I have heard of Asians trying to make it - they've progressed to semi-pro level, sometimes even professional level, and there's always a barrier.
"There's always something stopping them from progressing further, whether it is scouts who refuse to see them, whether it's managers who just don't want to see them on the pitch - so many different reasons. It's complex."
One of the stereotypes that plagues Asians is the notion they do not have a physique compatible with playing football at the highest level, but former Football League referee Jarnail Singh insists size does not always matter.
"At international level, you have the likes of [Lionel] Messi and others all over the world, who are small in size and stature. If they can make it, I can't see why our Asians can't make it either," he said.
Dr Daniel Kilvington, author of the 2016 book British Asians, Exclusion and the Football Industry believes stereotypes surrounding the size and physique of Asians are nothing more than a myth.
He said: "If you look at it from a scientific perspective, there is zero evidence to suggest a British Asian is going to be biologically weaker in any way than a black player or a white player, so it's a baseless argument and scientifically invalid.
"The problem is the manifestation of that biological stereotype still exists and it is still within the consciousness of scouts, coaches, managers and those who can open the doors to British Asian players. And for many of those out there, my research does show it is still an embedded stereotype."
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.