Hosted by the FA, the Birmingham Star Talent Identification event gained national attention, with Chelsea FC, Birmingham City FC, Liverpool FC and Continental Star FC delivering a series of skills-based training sessions in a bid to increase ethnic participation in football.
Predominately aimed at the South-Asian community, this free event consisted of coaching sessions, small-sided games and an opportunity for parents and carers to discuss possible barriers ethnic minority kids face in contemporary football.
Four winners (one in each age category at under 9s, 10s, 11s and 12s) were given a 6 week trial with the Birmingham City FC's academy, in addition to being invited to watch the academy players partake in their day-to-day training sessions.
On The Day
Attracting some of the FA's well respected coaches, semi-professional clubs from the likes of Lancashire and scouts from professional clubs, the event was deemed a success.
Initially starting with a meet and greet discussing the day's plan, the participants were taken through a warm up and then swiftly moved onto a skills-based training session where the aim was to work on touches, passing and movement.
After the enjoyable session, the players were put into small-sided matches with the scouts identifying who would fit into the academy.
One of the goals of the event was to educate parents on the fundamentals of football, and the success it brings. Having listed county FA representatives, Sporting Equals and other diversity-driven organisations to answer any possible questions and queries, the parents' responses were inherently positive.
One parent suggested the event was an integral feature when tackling the underrepresentation of South-Asians in football;
“Knowing the stereotyping that occurs in leagues, there is this prejudice that they (scouts) look for maybe white and black players because they think the parents are going to be more supportive, physically well-built etc. Even though it seems uncomfortable, I'm glad the FA are taking action and holding these kinds of events”.
From the perspective of bringing their children to this event, a second parent similarly recommended the programme;
“Let him have a feel of how our community is improving and progressing at the moment. It gives him the opportunity to see what's available out there and also the chance to be trained by high level coaches and I'm sure he will reap the rewards of it. It also opens the eyes of the parents to get involved and learn from football and the different job prospects it has other than being a footballer”.
During the process, a number of coaches were there giving advice and discussing possible barriers and solutions to parents. One South-Asian coach said;
“Events and projects like this are fantastic for the Asian community. Asian parents, managers and coaches want to see more and days like this is exactly what they want. Having consistently said there is nothing for Asians, the FA got together and produced this one-day event”.
The immediate intention of this event was for 4 budding players to have a trial and compete at a professional academy. Yet, the wider impact is arguably the more important. With these South-Asian focused programmes still in their infancy, the parents and coaches combined hope for work to be done post event. One of the coaches featured said;
“It's ok having these one day events, but we need to track the progress of these players. There could be announcements, news articles, papers, interviews of players going into the academy, but where do they go next?”
Sporting Equals are in the process of tracking the development of the four Asian Star Talent ID winners, producing a regular blog which will be uploaded on the website through newsletters and case study profiles.
The LTA has become the first national governing body to sign the new Sporting Equals Charter, which aims to actively promote greater involvement in sport and physical activity among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
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