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South Asians in Football Weekly: Derby's Kira Rai dazzles, Rohan Luthra keeps clean sheet, Imran Kayani in red-hot form

Sunny and Bhupinder Singh Gill, Harun Hamid, Easah Suliman, Kira Rai, Rohan Luthra and Imran Kayani are among those who have enjoyed a brilliant week in the Beautiful Game; our resident expert Dev Trehan brings you all the details in the latest edition of South Asians in Football Weekly

Kira Rai, Derby County
Image: Trailblazer Kira Rai was in devastating form for Derby County

The latest edition of South Asians in Football Weekly is out after another good week for the community in the Beautiful Game...

Kira Rai turned on the style as she came off the bench to win a penalty before scoring from open play to round off a thumping 4-0 win for Derby County away at Fylde.

The Sikh-Punjabi attacker scored with a trademark goal deep into added-time, latching onto a through ball before racing clear, rounding the 'keeper and executing a perfect finish.

Rai, who features in the first-ever timeline and showcase documenting the journey of South Asian players in the modern women's game, is in her 15th year at Derby County and has played in every age-group team since joining as an U10s player.

"It's no secret, everybody knows I love Derby County," Rai told Sky Sports News in an exclusive sit-down.

"I'm always happy to contribute to the team, especially when we produce top-class performances like that.

"It was especially sweet to score at the end of a week where the lack of ethnic diversity in the women's game has once again become a major talking point.

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"I'm really proud to be one of those flying the flag for South Asian girls in the women's game."

Sunny Singh Gill and younger brother Bhupinder Singh Gill made history last week as they presided over the first England Euro Elite League fixture played on home soil.

With a player pool derived mainly from last season's U20s, England's Euro Elite League squad is open for players born between January 1 2002 and December 31 2004.

England were beaten 2-1 by Portugal at Stadium:mk with Sikh-Punjabi brothers Sunny and Bhupinder becoming the first pair of British South Asians ever to officiate at that level - effectively one rung below international football, given players aged almost 22 are eligible to play.

Sunny is the highest-ranked referee from a South Asian background in English football, and younger brother Bhupinder is the most senior assistant referee hailing from the community.

Their father, Jarnail Singh, is the first and only turbaned Sikh referee in Football League history, taking charge of more than 150 matches across the divisions between 2004 and 2010.

Sunny was a guest at the Sporting Equals Awards in London at the weekend, where the future of South Asians in Football was being discussed on the sidelines by people from grassroots football all the way through to the elite level of the game.

Officials from Sporting Khalsa, Southall FC and the Khalsa Football Federation were all agreed on the need for a game-wide British South Asians in Football strategy. The first Muslim member of the FA Council Yunus Lunat and former FA National Game Board member Abu Nasir also signalled their agreement.

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Geordie hero and British South Asians in Football trailblazer Michael Chopra joined Sky Sports News' Keith Downie and the Toon Army ahead of their Champions League showdown with AC Milan!

Trailblazer and former Newcastle United striker Michael Chopra was also involved in deep discussions about the state of play - against the backdrop of zero per cent British South Asian representation on the pitch in the Premier League last season.

Michael Chopra and Dev Trehan at the Sporting Equals Awards
Image: Former Newcastle United striker Michael Chopra catches up with Sky Sports News' Dev Trehan at the Sporting Equals Awards

Even legendary former England netball captain Ama Agbeze MBE actively engaged in discussions, lending her support and expressing her concern about South Asian representation at the highest level of the Beautiful Game.

The Football Association sponsored the Community Champion of the Year award on the night, with FA head of diversity and inclusion strategic programmes Dal Darroch presenting the accolade alongside former Tottenham and Liverpool centre-back Steven Caulker.

On-loan Cardiff City goalkeeper Rohan Luthra was in inspired form for Slough Town as they caused an upset to beat well-fancied Ebbsfleet United and take their place in the FA Cup first round.

Ebbsfleet play in the Vanarama Conference, one division higher than Slough, and were big favourites heading into the clash at Arbour Park.

6ft 5in Punjabi shot-stopper Rohan Luthra embraces Sky Sports News' Dev Trehan after his first clean sheet for Slough Town
Image: 6ft 5in Punjabi shot-stopper Rohan Luthra embraces Sky Sports News' Dev Trehan after keeping his first clean sheet for Slough Town

But Luthra produced a string of top-drawer saves to keep the away side at bay, with Josh Jackman and Matty Lench scoring the goals to set up a first-round clash against Grimsby Town.

Luthra kept another clean sheet at the weekend against Chelmsford to make it seven clean sheets in his last nine games to help Slough extend their unbeaten run to 10 matches.

Shadab Iftikhar has returned home to Preston in a blaze of glory after his heroics with the Pakistan national team.

Iftikhar was last month appointed head coach of Pakistan U19s and guided the team all the way to final at their first-ever U19 South Asian Football Federation U19 Championship.

The former Fort William manager then linked up with the senior team as part of Londoner Stephen Constantine's backroom staff - with Pakistan going on to win a World Cup qualifier for the first time in their history, after 33 previous failed attempts.

Pakistan went through to the group stages in the second round of Asian World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 aggregate win against Cambodia.

Former QPR youngster Harun Hamid came off the bench to score a second-half winner, with Birmingham-born duo Easah Suliman and Rahis Nabi also playing for Pakistan in both legs.

Suliman, who captained Pakistan away in Phnom Penh, capped one of the most memorable weeks in his career by scoring a header for his club side Fk Suqayit in their Azerbaijan Premier League match against Sabah Baku at the weekend.

Imran Kayani's red-hot form continued at the weekend as he scored a dramatic last-minute equaliser in Whitehawk's clash with Dulwich Hamlet at the weekend.

Dulwich took the lead through Michael Chambers before Kayani capped a sweeping attack with a point-blank header to score his fourth goal in in his last three games for Whitehawk.

Kayani has become an instant fan-favourite since joining the club at the beginning of last month after a brief spell with Dover Athletic.

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