Westbrom starlet Adil Nabi on England, Faith and Chicken

Westbrom starlet Adil Nabi on England, Faith and Chicken

Published by the FA Asian’s in Football Newsletter

Adil Nabi is one of the brightest young stars of the game.  A British Asian from a Pakistani family, he grew up in Aston, Birmingham and is one of five brothers, two of  which also play at West Bromwich Albion. We spoke to  Adil shortly after he was recognised at the recent Asian Football Awards.

Adil, when did you first play the game?
My dad was not like other Asian dads pushing us into cricket, he would always have us playing football and when I was seven years old he took me to West Brom’s community coaching sessions just to have fun. He thought I had some talent after watching me play so I can say that I was first spotted by my dad. It was during these sessions that I was spotted by the coaches at Albion and was asked to come train with them and the rest as they say is history.

Does being one of the only pro Asian players have its advantages or disadvantages?
I know a lot is made of the fact that I am Asian but I don’t think it gives me any advantage or disadvantage, it’s my ability that gives me an advantage. The fact I am one of the only Asians at a Premier League club really pushes me in everything I do, so all the young Asian players, both male and female are motivated to think “Well if Adil can do it so can we”. West Bromwich Albion recently unveiled a statue of “The Three Degrees”, Albion stars Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis. They were pioneers who paved the way for today’s black footballers. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to pave the way for the future young Asian footballers. Honestly  speaking, I can’t say being Asian has ever mattered to me or
the club.

Adil has also played for the English youth teams.
Adil has also played for the English youth teams.

Does your club recognise the cultural or religious needs you might have?
Being Muslim, I have certain dietary needs and like most players I enjoy my chicken. Thankfully West Brom is fantastic at providing Halal food. The whole footballing industry has changed with the influx of overseas players from diverse cultural backgrounds pushing clubs to recognise and accommodate their needs.

I think the work being done like that of the Association of Muslim footballers (AMF)
in the making of the Muslim Premier League, are great initiatives, and bring issues to a more mainstream audience. Ramadan and Eid are recognised by the club but as a professional I have a responsibility too, so like this year Ramadan fell during pre-season, which is a crucial part of the season, I never asked for any time off. The club was very much aware it was Ramadan and put a training plan
together to make it easier for me.
Who is the best player you have ever played with?
I have played with a lot of good players and I learnt a lot from them but if you really pushed me I would have to say that probably the best player I’ve played with is Nicolas Anelka. He’s a fantastic footballer and a great person, I’ve learnt so much from him.

You are already an FA Level 2 coach at just 19. Do you see yourself moving into coaching when you retire?
Football is much quicker, more creative and players are stronger than at any time in the history of the game. As a player anything that helps me to be more aware of the latest philosophies and techniques can only benefit me. Being a Level 2 coach at 19 is great because I am showing others out there that even as a professional footballer, I have not put all my eggs in one basket. I would love to coach and manage one day but I think it’s a little premature to be talking about
retiring now!

As a role model for English, Asian and Muslim players do you feel any extra pressure or responsibility?
I don’t feel any added pressure. In fact I feel privileged to be considered a role model. I think there is a need for more
role models that kids can look up to both on and off the pitch. I believe that you need certain characteristics to be a good player and these same characteristics are needed to be a good human being.

Adil won the young player award at the Asian Football Awards.
Adil won the young player award at the Asian Football Awards.

What do you think is the biggest factor affecting Asian under-representation in football?
There isn’t one single factor affecting Asian under-representation in football, but I do think that a lack of awareness of opportunities and a lack of engagement with Asian communities is a big issue. English football’s Inclusion Plan hopes to bring more Asians into the game, and if delivered well, should go a long way in addressing this. There also needs to be more promotion of Asians in the game in the mainstream media, I mean it’s fantastic having this newsletter for Asians in football, but we need to highlight role models
in the mainstream media.
How important do you think it is to have Asian players in the professional leagues as role models?
I’ve already represented England at Under-17 and scored twice on my debut, it was a great feeling to wear the Three Lions and it’s a feeling I fully intend on experiencing with my senior debut. I think if the Asian players in the professional  game were given the exposure for what they have achieved you would see a massive effect on the game holistically. The recent Asian football awards were great for giving
that exposure.

Even though you are young, you’ve been in grassroots and professional football most of your life. Have you seen the issues facing Asians change much in that time?
I am young in age but in terms of being involved with the games it’s been over 11 years so I would say that I have a good insight. The biggest change I have seen is that the Asian community now believes they have every right to be involved in the game at every level. The young kids out there now see players like me and believe that they too can make it.

Yes we still have a long way to go but in my time we have come a long way and who’s to say that like “The Three Degrees”, me and my brothers won’t pave the path and way and open the floodgates to other Asians in football.?I believe we are at a tipping point, just look around at what’s going on. My dream would be inshallah to score the winner in the World Cup final for England from a ball played through to me by a young Asian
who was inspired from reading this interview into believing that Asians can play football.