x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

British Asians are growing in support for adopted nation

Some Asian names who made it big playing for United Kingdom.

Amir Khan is a household name in Britain.
Amir Khan is a household name in Britain.

Some Asian names who made it big playing for United Kingdom.

Cricket

Ten years ago, Nasser Hussain wrote in an English Sunday newspaper: "I really cannot understand why those [Asians] born here, or who came here at a very young age like me, cannot support or follow England."

Thanks in part to the Madras-born former Essex batsman's success in the international game, many do follow England now.

Hussain, who was brought up in an area of Essex with a large Asian population, played 96 Tests for England, including many as captain. Bopara is also a product of the academy Hussain's father, Joe, founded.

While relatively few have been able to follow his lead to date, he has at least shown it can be done.

 

Boxing

Ravi Bopara said this week that the only way he could keep his place in the England cricket team would be to "knock someone out".

He was speaking metaphorically, but England's other batsmen should beware: evidence suggests some British Asians pack a considerable punch.

In boxing, more than any other sport, British Asians - Pakistanis in particular - have reached the top and become household names.

Amir Khan earned the respect of the nation when he won a silver medal for Great Britain at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and has since gone on to win world titles in the professional game. He was born in Bolton to a family originating in Rawalpindi.

 

Football

Zesh Rehman, a Birmingham-born British Pakistani, appeared for England at a variety of age-group levels for England, as well as in the Premier League for Fulham. However, the centre-half remains in a minority of one, and his career, too, has now led him away from the UK.

He is currently playing in Thailand, and in 2005 he ceded his chances of ever representing England at senior level when he opted to play for Pakistan instead.

Michael Chopra, the Ipswich Town striker who was born in Newcastle to an Indian father, explored the chance of playing for India at this year's Asian Cup in Qatar.

Although he did not appear for them then, he has indicated he would be willing to do so in the future.

 

Rugby

John Kirwan, the Japan coach and former All Black, recently predicted that Asia will become the next great power in rugby union.

That seems a little far-fetched at the moment, and it would need something seismic to get British Asians into the sport.

Despite the cosmopolitan nature of English rugby - the current national squad includes players born in Kenya, Australia, Samoa, South Africa and New Zealand - there has yet to be an Asian player of note.

If the prominence of Britons from a subcontinental background in cricket is linked to the influence of their national team, rugby has much catching up to do. India are ranked No 73 in the current International Rugby Board standings.