Mirror's Open Goal campaign continues to uncover pioneering managers of the future
Judan Ali, a young aspiring British Asian coach, speaks to the Daily Mirror’s Open Goal campaign about his hopes to break into the professional game:
Judan Ali is damning evidence of football’s racist past – and its hope for a better future.
Ali suffered racist abuse and discrimination when he tried to make a career as a professional as a teenager in the late 80s and early 90s after two years at Arsenal as a YTS trainee. He was met by a wall of prejudice and even tried anglicising his name to try to get a trial.
Ali spent a couple of years visiting 50 clubs throughout the country and believes each rejection had more to do with the colour of his skin than his abilities as a player. “I started off writing letters asking for a trial to clubs, but because of my name I never even got a reply, so I started using the name Julian or John,” he said.
“I must have gone to over 50 clubs over a two-year period and even though I was head and shoulders above the other players, I got racially abused to my face. I got told to my face ‘Paki go back to your own country’ and once, after scoring two goals in the first half of a game, the coach said in front of me to his striker ‘don’t let that Paki overshadow you’.
“It’s a myth that British Asians cannot play football and I heard ‘Pakis prefer their kids to set up corner shops’ to ‘short and weak’. How ironic as the best players in the world are short – Maradona, Messi etc.
“I met so many Asian footballers as a teenager who were world class but were never given a look-in. My PE teacher at school was affiliated to West Ham, he admired the talented Asian boys that played but none of them were referred or picked up.”
Ali, now 38, from Brick Lane in East London, finally got sick of the racism and went to Spain where he carved out a career with Murcia. But when he returned to England to try to become a coach, he met more resistance. Tired of being knocked back, he went to India and returned with an Under-15 side to compete in Arsenal’s football festival this summer.
His team shocked their more established rivals from around the world to win and prove Ali’s point that Asians and British Asians certainly can make talented players and coaches. The FA have recognised Ali’s potential and are sponsoring him as he takes his coaching badges. Blackburn’s Indian owners Venky’s have also taken note of him and his aim is to become the Premier League’s first British Asian manager.
“I sent a message to the football world by winning that tournament that they needed to take notice of Asian footballing talent, not just in India, but in this country,” he said.
“I’m now taking my badges, thanks to the help of the FA, and my goal is to become the first British Asian Premier League manager. I also want to take a country to the World Cup when I have qualified and the 2022 tournament in Qatar is my goal.
“I want to open people’s minds to the fact that we have talent here, regardless of the colour of your skin. I also hope I’m showing young Asians in this country that they can make it and that things are changing from the experiences I suffered as a teenager.
“I have noticed a big shift in the lifting of barriers and obstacles that I faced 20 years ago that are no longer prevalent in the English professional game. And I urge anyone who is talented to fulfil their potential and get involved in football, whether it be playing or coaching.”
From Daily Mirror