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The Mela Cup –A Breakthrough for Asian footballers

Football – it’s the beautiful game, loved by almost all. Yet participation at a professional level for budding British Asian’s has remained limited over the last decade. It’s been a good few years since Birmingham-born Zesh Rehman and Michael Chopra made headlines when they became the first British Asian’s to play in the top flight. It was hailed as the turning point for British Asians yet it all went very quiet soon after.

This summer however the tide may just be turning. Asian Mela’s across the country saw the birth of the Mela Cup – a grassroots tournament for all potential British Asian footballers. Having already tested the skills of players across Preston, Manchester and Newcastle, this Sunday it finally comes to Birmingham.

Supported fully by the FA, the initiative was born out of the frustration of lack of access and development available to promising Asian footballers. It will be the first of an annual event, bringing football competition, skills, training and enjoyment of the game to Asian communities through out the UK, Lawrence Target, Project Director told The Asian Today.

The tournament comprises of 6 regional heats of 32 teams, in 6 major cities with the winners of each region competing in the Finals.

“We know there are good if not great players out there who are just not getting the opportunity and it is hoped the Mela Cup will be a stepping stone to further development and success within the professional game,” Lawrence says.

The Mela Cup doesn’t just stop at giving Asian players a one-off chance to show their skills.

Scouts from Premiership clubs have been attended the heats, and coaches are on hand to offer advice on training. And for the winners there’s an even bigger incentive – they will be offered further training within premiership football academies.

Not surprising the response has been incredible.

“The support from the FA, the football clubs and the football associations around the country has been encouraging. And the over riding feeling from the people has to be “At Last”, Lawrence says.

The Pakistan FA also got in on the act earlier this month when they held trials in Rotherham for talented British Asian players hoping to tap into the untouched market.

”It is great the Pakistan FA have finally realised there is talent in the UK”, Lawrence says, “and it is the Mela Cups job to develop that talent for now and for the future. We want people to have careers in the game, to take the talent that is there and offer an avenue that has never existed before, to make a difference.”

Sunny Sahota from the Birmingham FA said there was real excitement about the possibility of British Asian’s being regular faces on the premiership scene.

“The Mela Cup will be an important event in giving a platform for budding Asian Footballers to showcase their talents to not just the general public but to the professional club scouts that will be attending the event. This will open many avenues for the players and hopefully we will be able to see a few more Asian faces amidst professional football and within the grassroots football realm,” she said.

“The Mela Cup is a real positive competition which runs in parallel to the FA ‘Football For all’ campaign which strongly stands to believe that the beautiful game is accessible to every corner of the community,  basically if you have a passion for the game you will have a place in the team.”

“The BCFA are providing the optimum support to the event along with the FA as we understand that the Mela Cup is a real proactive step into ensuring that more Asians enter the game not just as players but from all levels, referees, coaches, and fans. We will help in providing coverage to the event through the local and national media.  With this added exposure will be able to send the message out that Asians are very much apart of game as we stand together to break barriers and bring more Asians into football.”

The Birmingham heat for the Mela Cup will take place at Cannon Hill Park this Sunday.

All teams are welcome but must register at www.melacup.com before Sunday. The Grand Finals will take place at the Edinburgh Mela in the 1st and 2nd September.

 

Pictures courtesy of the Birmingham FA

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