As part of efforts to address the under-representation of ethnic minorities amongst England's support, young Asian fans were taken to Wembley recently to learn about the history of the national side.
Anwar Uddin, who leads the FSF and Kick it Out’s Fans for Diversity campaign, recently arranged for a group of 40 young people from Bangladeshi community club Bengal Academy in East London to attend Wembley stadium for the day.
The event gave them the opportunity to learn more about the English footballing tradition and the history of the English national team – and looked to address what Anwar describes as a “disconnect” between young Asians and the national team.
“To the younger generation of football fans the Premier League is of course a big draw,” Anwar told us. “But they don’t have that relationship with the national team.”
Anwar’s research for Fans For Diversity has highlighted the problem of young supporters from under-represented communities being disconnected from their local clubs, a problem which extends to the national team.
“We’re always looking at the relationship that people have with their local clubs and look at getting young fans from different communities into the match-going habit.
“Events like this are a great way of building that relationship with the national side too. It’s great to teach them about the World Cup, 1966 and the great players we’ve had.”
Asked why such a large number of young people in ethnic minority communities, even third-generation, felt little affinity to the England team, Anwar said the “dual loyalty” phenomenon was still present.
“The picture across the different communities is mixed,” Anwar says. “There is a dual-loyalty there, many in the earlier generations of Asian communities were loyal to Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, but their national teams are far behind in footballing terms.
“But if you look at the African communities, it’s much easier to support Ivory Coast, Nigeria – as there are more successful teams there.”
Even with all these historical and social factors at play, Anwar said the football itself remained important to young fans connecting with the national side.
He said: “When I was growing up one of my big memories was the 1990 World Cup, with the likes of Lineker, Gascoigne, and losing to West Germany.
“I don’t think the younger generation has had that experience - that opportunity to get excited about the national team which would lead them into learning about its history.
“We want to get them excited about it, get them thinking about the Euros in France. Get them thinking, ‘Can we win a World Cup?’
“So this work is about embracing England, England is there for everyone to support. This about giving young people the confidence to go and buy a ticket and take their Dad to a match at Wembley.”