As part of our ongoing #ThisIsSurreyFootball campaign, we spoke to Tooting & Mitcham and Lebanon international player Hady Ghandour about the issues of Asian participation in English football.
Hady came through the club’s academy and is now in his second season in the senior setup. Aided by the forward’s goals, The Terrors have had a promising first half to the season and well positioned for a play-off push.
We asked Ghandour about his experiences as a young British-Asian making it in the game and for his views on the prevailing issues of racism in the game.
When did you first get involved in football?
“As long as I can remember. My dad moved from Lebanon to London at the age of 13 and he’s always been into it. He got me into it when I was about five or six. So as long as I can remember really; playing, training hard, enjoying it. This is my fourth year at the club. I joined at 16 [with] the U18s and moved up into the first team.”
Why do you think there’s such an underrepresentation of Asian players in the English game?
“I think with players from Asia, the culture is a bit different. I’m not saying it’s bad or good. I just think the family is more education orientated. So as you move up in the game of football here, you have to move away from the education. So if you go pro you don’t go to school, you don’t go to university and that’s big in our countries in Asia. So I think that’s a big reason why there’s not many that are represented or play in this county. But I think as there’s more awareness, social media etc, it will develop and we’ll see more representation of Asian and BAME players in the English game.”
Do you think there’s anything which can be actively done about it?
“I think to be honest it’s mainly down to the players. You just have to perform [and] raise awareness by your performances. But yeah more role models, and as I say it’s down to you to do your best, play well and you’ll get the attention. And then you can be the role model for other young and up and coming players from those countries.
What do you think should be done about the racist abuse suffered by players on social media?
I think obviously it’s a disgrace, there’s no place for it in football. But there’s always going to be the minority that are going to voice their opinion and voice it in a bad way. I think obviously the fans are entitled to their opinion. They pay their money, they come to the games, they want to see performances. But I think you can channel your anger in a different way to racism and abusing the small minority. I think if fans want to voice their opinions, at least don’t tag that player on] social media] and that way they probably won’t see it. Obviously it’s a disgrace, there’s no place for it.
What can be done to tackle it? Obviously it’s down to the social media platforms to identify those few individuals who put bad stuff on social media. Otherwise I don’t think there’s much that can be done. It’s about education; everyone’s the same, we’re all humans. It’s hard because in my opinion there will always be a few, and it’s only a few, [who] will voice their opinion in a negative way. There’s not much we can do. It’s mainly down to Facebook, Instagram [and] Twitter to target those people. And maybe if people want to register [there should be] background checks.”
Is there any advice you would give to other young players?
“I had a tough week last week, I missed a big chance in our game. You’ve just got to forget about that and get on with it. Forget all the talk, just focus on yourself and the team. If the team’s winning then that’s good. Just focus on your game, enjoy it. If you do bad, just get on with it, learn from your mistakes.”
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