The Indian-origin player gets candid about his early days in youth football and the responsibility of being a role model at a young age.
Yan Dhanda, who currently plays for Swansea City in the EFL Championship, the second tier of English football, has his roots in the Indian state of Punjab. His father hails from India, while his mother is English. The versatile attacking midfielder has represented England at youth level, in the U-16 and U-17 age groups.
The Indian-origin professional is one of the two players with Indian heritage alongside Danny Batth of Stoke City, who are plying their trade in English football, trying to achieve big things. The 20-year-old came into the limelight after signing for Liverpool back in 2013 from West Bromwich Albion’s youth setup. However, he moved to his current Welsh employers at the beginning of last season in search of first-team football to further his career.
Dhanda is the first Indian-origin player to sign for Liverpool FC
The Birmingham-born player with Asian heritage had to face racism quite early in his playing days and has had to take the tirade of abuse in his stride, while trying to find his feet in the challenging atmosphere of English football.
Speaking in that context he said, “I’ve had a bit of racism growing up, when I was playing youth football. Maybe, people thought it was strange seeing Asian players play football. I’ve had people say the P-word, or like corner shop this or corner shop that – because people stereotype Asians to have those sorts of jobs.”
He further added, “It has been a problem for me growing up, but it hasn’t really affected me. My dad’s told me since I was young that if you get racism whether it’s in football, or school, or wherever, just let it make you work harder.”
“I’ve said it before – it doesn’t really affect me, it just drives me on even more. I’ve been strong enough to see past it and not let it or let anyone get to me,” he added.
The former Liverpool youth player also talked about the important part he plays as a role model to many up-and-coming players from Asian backgrounds, despite himself being in the budding years of his career.
Dhanda further expressed a lot of pride in his affiliation to India and stated, “I’m super proud to be where I’m from and where my family originate from and I think I’d be stupid not to be. I’m in a position where I could be one of the first players with Indian ethnicity to go on and achieve great things and that excites me.”
“I’d never hide the fact that I’m Indian or (not celebrate the fact) that there are not other Indian players out there, because I am proud of who I am. I just love playing football and feel my background helps me. I never really thought of myself as a role model because I am still young and I’ve still got a lot to do,” he further added.
“But people tell me I’m one of only a few Asian professional footballers in the game – and there are millions of Asian kids – Indian, Pakistani all different kinds of races – that want to be footballers. I think, if they look up to me, I see myself as a role model for them, and I think it’s down to me to give them good advice and do as much as I can to help them.”
Dhanda’s account on facing racism early on in his career throws further light on the prevalent problem of growing racist abuse directed towards non-British players based on the colour of their skin or ethnicity. This series of unfortunate incidents have seen a sharp rise recently, with Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford of Manchester United falling victims to it.
Racism has no place in football or any other discourse and the governing associations in tandem with social media organisations must take stringent steps to eradicate it from the game. This will enable and motivate scores of players like Dhanda to make a mark for themselves and become inspirational figures for their communities.